Total Health
Chiropractic

Can a Chiropractor help with scoliosis?

by Dr. Beau Kenihan, Chiropractor at Total Health Chiropractic Geelong

X-ray image of teenager patient spine show Scoliosis and spinal bend in young people. Process in blue tone and have copy space, Medical concept.

Scoliosis has long been a misunderstood or feared problem. Many people picture a mangled or twisted spine that leaves the person disfigured or stooped over like the hunchback of Notre Dame. First let’s talk about what scoliosis is and the different types, then how it can be helped.

What is scoliosis?

There are two concepts to understand about scoliosis before it can be discussed. Firstly, any curve in your spine which is to the side – or lateral curve –  is considered a ‘scoliotic’ curve. The word literally describes sideways curving of the spine, whether it is 3 degrees or 20 degrees. There is a difference between a scoliotic curve and the condition ‘scoliosis’ or ‘clinical scoliosis’. Clinical scoliosis is most often diagnosed when the degree of curve exceeds about 12 degrees. This is when the curve can begin to really affect body movements, posture and perhaps cause pain. 

There are two types of scoliosis: 

Structural scoliosis

Structural scoliosis is a type of scoliosis that is caused by the shape of the bones. Some bones may be wedged on one side, and so sending the above vertebrae off on a sideways angle. Chiropractic – as well as other conservative modalities like Osteopathy or Physiotherapy – cannot fix this type of scoliosis. Chiropractic, Osteopathy or Physiotherapy may help with the resulting symptoms of structural scoliosis, as we can use many different techniques to increase joint movement and range of motion which can help with the pain. That said, we cannot change the shape of the bones themselves, and therefore it is very difficult to change the alignment of the spine. 

Functional Scoliosis

The other type of scoliosis is called a functional scoliosis. This type of scoliosis can be helped with conservative therapies like Chiropractic. Functional scoliosis happens when your posture is such that your spine curves sideways, not so much that the bones are wedge shaped. At Total Health Chiropractic in Bell Park (Geelong), Dr. Mymy and I see a lot of people with functional scoliosis, often built up over years of doing an asymmetrical activity. Some common examples of asymmetrical activity include: 

  • Always driving a manual transmission on a machine or truck at work, therefore using a heavy clutch over and over again for many years
  • Working in a factory where the activity involves one movement from one side of the body to the other
  • Playing a sport which involves the repetitive use of one side of the body over the other (sports like badminton where the use of only one hand is required)

The above activities (and many more!) often results in a far higher use of one side of the body, and can build muscles asymmetrically. However, the far more frequent problem is that it creates postural habits where a lean to one side causes sideways or scoliotic curving of the spine. 

How can Chiropractic care help with scoliosis?

The way Chiropractors may be able to help is by using different techniques to solve different aspects of the problem, including:

Spinal manipulation

 One technique is spinal manipulation, or what we refer to chiropractic adjustments. Adjustments most often involve a short, fast push to a specific area of the spine to move it in the direction it is most restricted in. This can be an effective way to increase range of motion -which is often restricted in people with scoliosis.

Mobilisation or soft tissue techniques

Sometimes we may use mobilisation or some soft tissue techniques to assist in increasing range of motion.

Rehabilitation exercises and stretches

Another method is the use of specific, tailored rehabilitation exercises or stretches to help your own body hold itself in the properly aligned position. 

There are different types of scoliosis, meaning there are different ways of helping it. To work out the best way for you, Total Health Chiropractic conducts a thorough history, physical examination and posture analysis. Commonly for scoliosis is also a recommendation to request spinal x-rays to assess the angle of the scoliosis and determine the best treatment approach. If you are concerned you might have scoliosis, please get in touch with myself, Dr. Mymy or one of our other practices across Victoria and Queensland.

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