Scoliosis: Risks, Causes and Correction
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is generally diagnosed when there is a lateral (sideward) curvature in either the thoracic (middle back) and / or lumbar (lower) spine. This curvature may form a “Cshaped” curve or more often there is an “Sshaped” curve, and is always accompanied by rotational misalignments and forward head posture, though forward head posture can occur in the absence of scoliosis.
Scoliosis is generally labeled as “idiopathic scoliosis.” I love the term, “idiopathic”, which is derived from the simple English words, “idiot” and “pathology”, loosely translated, “I feel like an idiot because I cannot understand the cause of this dysfunction.” Despite the continued widespread use of this term in the medical profession, chiropractors no longer use it as its cause of scoliosis is well known.
The chiropractic term for a misaligned spine is known as subluxation. A subluxation disrupts normal neurological activity to the spinal cord, relevant spinal nerves, brainstem, cerebellum and other parts of the brain.
A subluxation can occur between only two vertebrae, however more commonly, especially when left uncorrected for a period of time, subluxations form patterns in the spine. Common subluxation patterns include scoliosis, sway back, forward head posture and hunch back and many others.
Health Risks Associated with Scoliosis
The possible health risks associated with scoliosis are numerous and not every person with scoliosis will experience them all. The variation in dysfunction and symptoms stems from the different location and angle of spinal curvatures, the extremely complex nature of neural dysfunction, the severity of the early trauma (discussed in the next section), exercise and lifestyle habits of the patient.
Some of the health risks include but is not limited to:
§ neurological disruption
§ pulmonary (lung) dysfunction
§ cardiac (heart) dysfunction
§ thyroid dysfunction
§ wide range of digestive issues
§ early and advanced degeneration of the spine and other joints
§ spinal and muscular pain
§ referred pain such as sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome
§ faulty biomechanics, leading to increased risk of injury, particularly in sport
Causes of Scoliosis
One of the greatest areas of confusion with regards to scoliosis is its cause. Many parents are fraught with a sense of guilt, believing that scoliosis was “in their genes,” and somehow “passed down” to their son or daughter. This has also been a long held belief in the medical profession. However, consistent with the long standing knowledge of chiropractors, a recent article in the scientific journal “Spine” stated that no specific gene has ever been linked to scoliosis. Although scoliosis is diagnosed based on the sideward curvature of the spine, most people are surprised to learn that its primary cause is found in the neck.
This means that a subluxation in the neck that was caused early in life can and often does lead to improper spinal and neurological development, often leading to scoliosis. The causal traumas can occur during pregnancy, the birth process or early childhood trauma. Toxins can also be responsible for upper neck subluxation. It is therefore absolutely essential that any attempt at correction of the scoliosis must correct the subluxation in the neck.This is also true for many other subluxation patterns such as sway back, hunch pack, tilted and rotated pelvis and thorax, etc.
Supporting this fact, 100% of scoliosis patients have forward head posture. On closer examination by a chiropractor, all scoliosis patients have a specific subluxation involving the upper neck vertebrae and the base of the skull. These misalignments cause neurological disruption which leads to a loss of proprioception, which is the sense of the orientation of the body. It is this disruption in neurological function that causes the sideways curvature to develop in the middle and lower spine. All scoliosis patients have measureable decreases in proprioception and other neurological indicators.
Specialised Corrective Chiropractors Correct Scoliosis
Corrective chiropractors world over have had impressive success rates in the correction of scoliosis and the intervention is far safer than the medical approach. The assessment will include a detailed history, postural assessment and xray analysis. Once the angles, rotations and forward head posture are accurately assessed and measured, a program of highly specific spinal adjustments and exercises are introduced to retrain the spine to restore proper alignment. Of primary importance is the correction of the neck, which almost always precedes the complete correction of the sideways curvature of the lower parts of the spine.Balancing, Pilates and specific corrective stretches are extremely important in retraining the nervous system, the muscles and the ligaments to compliment chiropractic correction of the spine and are of continued importance in maintenance once the spine is fully realigned.
The time frame for correction can vary widely between patients. Some spines are harder to correct than others and factors such as the degree of forward head posture, the angle of sideward curvature, the level of degeneration of spinal discs and patient compliance with adjustment frequency and exercises all play important roles in the speed of correction. It is important to note that not every chiropractic technique is successful in the correction of scoliosis. There are many different types of chiropractors with various specialties, and it is important when choosing a chiropractor to determine if they specialise in the appropriate corrective techniques.
Prevention of Scoliosis
The prevention of scoliosis is based on correcting the cause not the problem. Early spinal checks by a chiropractor during infancy are invaluable for detecting the upper cervical subluxations that lead to improper spinal development. Correcting these as a baby is far easier than waiting until noticeable problems begin to arise. Any child can benefit from having their spine professionally checked by a chiropractor; however those who are at greatest risk for developing scoliosis have a history of:
· accident or toxic insult during pregnancy
· birth trauma, (eg. forceps or vacuum extraction, Csection)
· physical trauma as an infant or small child
· early toxic insult, including vaccination
Other signs that a baby may be suffering from an upper neck subluxation can include:
· Breathing difficulty
· Ear infections
· Feeding and sleeping problems
· Constipation or diarrhea
Because subluxation may often cause these conditions, chiropractors repeatedly find success in their treatment.
It is beneficial to be checked in the first month of life to ensure that scoliosis never has the chance to develop, however people of all ages with scoliosis will benefit from corrective chiropractic care.
The Medical Approach to Scoliosis is Ineffective
Because the diagnosis of scoliosis is dependent on the sideward curvature of the spine, the medical approach to scoliosis has been to attempt to correct this curvature rather than address the cause of the problem: the disruption of neurological activity from the misaligned neck.
Bracing for Scoliosis Does Not Work
A scoliosis brace is a plastic girdle that is often worn by children and teenage patients until the patient stops growing. At best, bracing may slow down or temporarily stop the sideward spinal curvature from increasing. However as soon as the brace is removed, the scoliosis rapidly progresses beyond where it was before the brace was used. This occurs because wearing the brace reduces spinal motion, thereby further decreasing neurological activity from the spinal joints. In addition, the brace is incredibly restrictive and reduces quality of life and physical activity.
The Untold Story of Scoliosis Surgery
Despite the best intentions and skill of orthopedic surgeons, the surgical correction of scoliosis is not only ineffective in improving the patient’s quality of life, it is extremely dangerous. Like bracing, surgery does nothing to address the cause of the scoliosis – the subluxation of the neck. Every year in the United States, roughly 20,000 Harrington rod implantation surgeries are performed on patients with scoliosis. When compared to a per capita population for other western countries such Australia, Canada, Britain and European countries, the numbers are similar. Onethird of all spinal surgeries are performed on scoliosis patients.
Every year in the USA, about 8,000 people who underwent Harrington rod implantation surgeries in their youth are legally defined as permanently disabled for the rest of their lives. Follow up xrays in the years following surgery usually reveal that the scoliosis curvature is returning, the rods are bending and often break. This necessitates further invasive surgeries to both correct the spine once again and to repair damage to internal organs caused by the broken rods. During these follow up operations, two out of every three sets of rods is found to have severe rust, which is toxic to the human body and can cause a range of issues including toxic shock.
Follow up studies that compare patients who have undergone Harrington Rod surgery with those who have had no
intervention show that every measured health and quality of life indicator is better for those who have not had the surgery.This is not to say that orthopedic surgery is an inferior practice to chiropractic, but that it should only be used where less invasive options are not possible, such as in the case of severe bone fractures. In the case of scoliosis, corrective chiropractic should be the first measure for correction. The Cost of Scoliosis Treatment In addition to being far more effective and safer, corrective chiropractic care is considerably less expensive than surgery or bracing for scoliosis, and has far reaching health benefits. The earlier a patient is checked and takes up chiropractic care, the less the cost of treatment and the chances of ever experiencing health issues associated with scoliosis will be greatly reduced.
Final Thought Medical doctors and chiropractors need not be at odds, but indeed should work together to ensure best outcomes for patients. The evidence clearly shows that the traditional medical approach for scoliosis is ineffective, expensive and dangerous whereas specialised corrective chiropractic is effective, safe and affordable. This does not mean that the two professions should be in conflict. It means that they should work together and refer patients to the appropriate type of practitioner on a case by case basis.