Scoliosis is a lateral (side to side) curvature of the spine that we are either born with or develops over time. Sometimes this can be identified when we are younger, other times it can go undetected for years before it becomes noticed as an adult. However, diagnosis of true scoliosis should be reserved for lateral curvatures over 20 degrees. Like trees in a forest, most people have a minor lean of the spine to one side or the other without causing pain or discomfort. Once curvature exceeds 10 degrees there tends to be more clinical significance and can lead to pain and discomfort in the neck or back. Because of the added strain of scoliosis on the spine there is a increased chance of arthritis, degenerative disc disease, or other disc injury as time passes. Pain associated with scoliosis is typically related to tight muscles, irritated joints and ligaments compensating for the shift in biomechanics.
Complications may include some of the following:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Compression fracture
- Disc injury
- Tight muscles
- Pinched nerves
There are natural curves of the spine in the sagittal plane (forward and backward) called the lordosis in the neck, kyphosis in the upper back and lordosis in the low back. These natural curves are biomechanical advantages to the exposure of gravity and protect the spine from injury. Lateral curvatures of the spine always create more strain on the spine and should be managed with care.
Treatment for scoliosis from a chiropractor will involve adjustments to increase and maintain mobility in areas that get stuck in the spine. Degenerative changes happen most quickly in areas that are jammed or fixed in place so movement is an important principle. Stretching and strengthening exercises to stabilize the spine should also be a part of the treatment process.
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