Diagnosis: Scoliosis

Pain Management > Spine Center > Diagnosis: Scoliosis

Woman with scoliosis
Scoliosis - a sideways spinal curve

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition involving lateral curvature of the spine. It affects roughly 2-3% of the population, with onset often occurring during adolescence.

A diagnosis of 'scoliosis' is given when someone's lateral spinal curvature exceeds 10 degrees - often resulting in an 'S' or 'C' shape which may or may not be visible to the naked eye.

People with scoliosis often have uneven shoulders or hips, or some degree of rotation in the spine. They may experience pain or stiffness in the lower or middle back or numbness/weakness in the legs. Severe cases can result in reduced coordination and mobility.

What causes scoliosis?

It is estimated that 65% of scoliosis cases are idiopathic (of unknown cause), 15% are congenital (a birth defect) and 10% are related to neuromuscular diseases [1]. Idiopathic cases are believed to be caused by many factors, including the possibility of inherited genes.

How can I test for scoliosis?

Aside from having a trained professional give you a physical examination, you can get a quick indication of whether you or your child might have scoliosis by performing a DIY scoliosis screening.

How can a chiropractor help with scoliosis?

Chiropractors are trained and qualified to formally diagnose conditions such as scoliosis and describe available treatment options and how likely they are to be effective.

Available treatment options vary depending on factors such as the severity of the condition and the patient's age and health. Teenagers are often prescribed corrective braces to wear over an extended period. For those with particularly severe scoliosis, surgery may be the best option. For many cases, chiropractic care can offer a cost-effective means of treatment.

Like other scoliosis treatment programs, chiropractic treatment of the spine can help to improve function and induce mobility into the joints, which can relieve pain, increase comfort and improve curvature. In particular, they take account of the three goals of non-surgical scoliosis treatments [2]:

  • halting further progression of the curve

  • reducing the deformity - depending on how much flexibility is still in the spine, treatment can often de-rotate spinal twisting in addition to correcting the lateral curve from between 50% to 70%.

  • maintaining spinal balance - for any positional changes, the treating doctor will take into account the overall spinal balance in order to maintain the spine's natural front/back balance as well as the evenness between hips and legs.

Chiropractic care can also address other symptoms or issues the patient may be experiencing and help prevent further progression of spinal curvature.

Rin Spine Center's Spinal Rehabilitation Program is designed to treat such spinal conditions.

1. Agabegi ED, Agabegi SS (2008). Step-Up to Medicine, pg. 90 (Step-Up Series). Hagerstwon, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

2. Negrini, S., Grivas, T.B., Kotwicki, T. et al. Why do we treat adolescent idiopathic scoliosis? What we want to obtain and to avoid for our patients. SOSORT 2005 Consensus paper. Scoliosis 1, 4 (2006).

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