What Is Scoliosis and How Can Scoliosis Surgery Be Avoided?
Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways shifting or misalignment of the spine that can lead to devastating health problems.
Scoliosis usually develops early in a child’s life, before the teen years, and it can occur in both girls and boys. Early detection is absolutely necessary and extremely beneficial so treatment can be provided to prevent further progression of the scoliosis.The spine normally is straight when viewing from the front and it has three naturally occurring curves when viewing it from the side. However, there are times we see an ‘S’ shape or ‘C’ curvature in the spine when viewing it from the front. This is not normal. This is called a scoliosis.
The spine is made up of 24 movable bones called vertebrae. These spinal bones make up the spinal column. The main function of the spinal column is to protect what’s on the inside, the spinal cord. The spinal column protects the spinal cord much like the skull protects the brain. What flows through the spinal cord? It’s all the signals to and from the brain. The brain is the master organ that controls all body functions, all healing, and all repair. Therefore, for optimal health and body function, there must be no interference on the spinal cord, the main pipeline that feeds life from brain to body.
A scoliosis is a specific type of spinal misalignment that can exert pressure and tension on the spinal cord thereby minimizing the flow of life from brain to body. Not only can scoliosis lead to pain, muscle spasms, stiffness, back pain, neck pain, and headaches, but once scoliosis progresses, it can cause complications to how other organ systems function. This can lead to fatigue, lack of sleep quality, low energy, and more serious health problems like complications to the heart and lungs.
Scoliosis can be easily detected and assessed for by a qualified practitioner like a chiropractor. Chiropractors are experts in spinal analysis and correction of spinal problems called subluxations (spinal misalignments). If you suspect your child or teen to have scoliosis or if scoliosis runs in your family, consider bringing child to a chiropractor for a scoliosis screening and spinal exam.
The chiropractor will perform a thorough health consultation and spinal examination. The spinal examination will include a posture check up, a range of motion analysis, a spinal check up for vertebral subluxations (spinal misalignments), and spinal x-rays. To absolutely confirm a finding of scoliosis, x-rays are necessary.
The treatment and management of care for scoliosis by a chiropractor is completely different than that of a medical doctor or medical specialist.
The medical approach to managing and treating scoliosis is one of three approaches:
1. Wait and see. I have heard this being recommended by medical specialists when the degree of scoliosis is found to be from 10 to 25 degrees. The danger with the wait see approach is that it can allow the scoliosis to progress while you are “waiting” to “see” what happens. This is a crucial time for management and correction of scoliosis that the “wait and see” approach should be avoided.
2. Bracing. When the scoliosis is over 25 degrees and less than 40 degrees, a brace is usually recommended. A scoliosis brace is required to be worn for 23 out of 24 hours of the day. Although bracing has been know to be effective in reducing the scoliosis curvature and preventing further progression, it can be a burden for the child/teen. Often time, bracing can be avoided when the scoliosis is managed earlier. This is why early detection and management is crucial, instead of “waiting and seeing” what happens. The “wait and see” approach is what can lead to the requirement of using a brace.
3. Surgery. This is the last resort when the scoliosis curve has advanced and progressed that it poses a serious health problem. Spinal surgery is usually recommended when the scoliosis curve is over 40 degrees. Again, another effect of either “waiting and see” or not detecting the scoliosis early in a child’s life. Scoliosis surgery is extremely invasive because it involves the insertion of metal rods, called Harrington rods, along the spine. Yes it will cause some correction and reduction in the scoliosis curve, but at huge risk to your child. And there is major healing time required after the surgery is completed. Further, the mobility and function of the spine will never be normal again as it is limited by metal rods.
In my opinion, everything should be done to avoid scoliosis surgery. Most parents agree with this opinion. The best approach is early screening, early detection, and early management of scoliosis. And the earlier the better.
Signs That Your Child Could Have Scoliosis
- One shoulder higher then the other.
- Winging of the shoulder blade (scapula). This is where one shoulder blade is popping further out than the other.
- A hump on one side of the rib cage along the spine.
- Hunching of the back.
- Head tilt.
This is only a general screen that you can do at home and in no way a substitute for a professional spinal examination. The presence of any one of these signs does not confirm your child has scoliosis. Only a spinal x-ray, following a complete spinal examination, will confirm a scoliosis.
A corrective care chiropractor, upon confirming the diagnosis of scoliosis, will recommend the proper course of action to manage the scoliosis, correct the spinal problems (spinal misalignments/subluxations), and help prevent further progression.
The benefits of chiropractic care for scoliosis is:
- Improved posture.
- Improved mobility.
- Reduction in pain.
- Improved function.
- Reduction in muscle tension/spasm.
- Eliminating the need for surgery.
- Eliminating the need for drugs.
- Overall improved health.
If you suspect your child to have a scoliosis, do not wait to take action and get it checked by a chiropractor. Take your child to a corrective care chiropractor as soon as possible.