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The Facts on Scoliosis of the Spine

Today we are going to talk about a very important topic: Get The Facts on Scoliosis of the Spine

RC: Hi Dr. Phinney, how are you today?

Dr. Matthew Phinney: Hey Liz, doing fantastic. Great to hear from you again.

RC: Well, thank you so much for joining us.

Question 1: What is Scoliosis and are there different types of scoliosis?

RC: What is scoliosis and are there different types of scoliosis?

Dr. Matthew Phinney: Yeah, great question. Scoliosis, they define scoliosis as any lateral curvature of the spine or the spinal column. The true definition they say any lateral curve greater than 10 degrees one way or the other would classify as a true scoliosis.

There’s a couple different types. One of them is congenital, which means it was there; you were born with it and so for whatever way, shape or form the vertebrae, the bones in your spine, they didn’t form right. This typically develops in utero.

Another type, most common type, is idiopathic. Really what that means is, hey we don’t know what caused it. That one is more commonly present in girls than it is boys. That’s what the majority of people out there that do have scoliosis have – it would be an idiopathic type scoliosis. Another type would be degenerative. That’s a result of years of wear and tear and misalignment of the spine causing certain areas to breakdown and they will slowly continue to shift or twist the spine.

The last one would be neuromuscular. That’s typically seen in say people that have had cerebral palsy. Certain areas of the nervous system and muscles are firing in disproportion to say others and it’s causing the spine to twist or shift. Spina bifida is another common cause of people suffering with neuromuscular type scoliosis.

Question 2: Who is most at risk for getting scoliosis? Is it genetic?

RC: Okay and you did touch on this a little bit but I’m going to ask this question. Who is most at risk for getting scoliosis and again is it genetic?

Dr. Matthew Phinney: Yeah, most at risk obviously females as opposed to males – I think it’s about 2% of women compared to about half a percent for men. Often times, yeah, there is a hereditary risk or genetic component to it. If your parents or your grandparents or someone along your sort of gene path has had a scoliosis and they have noted that there is an elevated risk for say offspring to develop or have it.

Question 3: How does someone realize they have scoliosis? What are some signs and symptoms?

RC: Okay and how does someone even realize they have scoliosis? What are some signs and symptoms?

Dr. Matthew Phinney: Yeah, great question. First of all would be one of the things you could look at is just hip heights or pelvic un-leveling. If they have prominent ribs say on one side or the other, almost looks like there’s a hump in one area of the back as compared to say another. Uneven shoulders is another one. If it looks like they’re leaning one way or the other.

Common neurological signs we’ll see like weakness, numbness in say the arms or the legs or say through the core. Often times, especially if it’s progressively getting worse, we’ll have people have difficulty say breathing, stomach and digestive issues like reflux and heartburn. Those are a couple things we’ll see especially people that have the curves on the farther end of the scale. Balance, coordination issues, proprioception – those are a couple of the symptoms and signs.

Then there’s a couple different orthopedic test that you can do to rule in or out whether or not you may be at risk. Really the gold standard to determine whether or not you have scoliosis is to take an x-ray. Take a film so you can see in black and white exactly what’s going on. I always recommend motion study films so you can actually see how things line up but also how things are moving, how things are functioning so you can actually get to the root cause of the issue.

Question 4: When is a child typically screened for scoliosis and what type of analysis is involved?

RC: Okay and again kind of leads into this question. When is a child typically screened for scoliosis? What type of analysis is involved?

Dr. Matthew Phinney: The screening process and I think they used to be a lot more stringent or strict with the screening process back in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s. I think things have sort of lightened up, they’re not doing as consistently. Because I’ve seen children come in here with pretty serious scoliotic curves and really they’ve gone unnoticed for a period of months or even years.

The analysis that they use is fairly crude. You have a child stand up, they put their hands over their hands and then they bend over. You see any humping, that’s an orthopedic test that’s called Adam’s Test. It’s fairly unreliable. Really the best way to determine whether or not they have scoliosis is actually have them come in and have them checked properly through someone that specializes in analyzing the spine such as a chiropractor, someone that takes motions films, that’s another recommendation I always take as well.

Question 5: How does chiropractic care help with scoliosis?

RC: All right and then lastly. How does chiropractic care help people with scoliosis?

Dr. Matthew Phinney: Great question. There’s a couple different things that can be done. First of all, determine what’s causing the scoliosis – if it’s congenital, if it was something that was there since birth, if there’s some sort of mis-shapen vertebrae. The first thing would be to have realistic expectation. If something is structurally just not sound, the likelihood that you’re ever going to completely straighten things up is fairly low but then at that point and time, you want to look at function, you want to look at structure. You want to make sure that everything is moving and working as good as it possibly can.

If it’s say a structural scoliosis – something that everything is intact but for still whatever reason there’s a twisting or shifting – often times, there can be different things we do such as traction specific adjusting. We have a neuromuscular re-education protocol that it would actually strengthen the convexity and stretch the cavity so that these curves can actually lessen.

I had a client come in, she was a biker. She had a 34 degree lateral curve scoliosis. We went through a serious of adjustments. We put her through our scoliosis protocol. We have a ScoliRoll and different things that we use, neuromuscular re-education with specific movements depending on where the curves going. She’s now down to a 17, she reduced that by a 100%. She went from 34 degrees down to 17. She is a competitive biker so any bikers out there know that she gets her bike fitted. She’s had to get her bike re-fitted now 3 times in the last year and a half. The reason why is her spine is really untwisting and straightening out.

RC: Wow, that’s fantastic.

Dr. Matthew Phinney: Yeah, it’s pretty cool.

RC: That’s great. Thank you so much Dr. Phinney. We know you’re really busy so I just want to thank you for all of your time and help today.

Dr. Matthew Phinney: I appreciate it.

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This article was reviewed and approved by Dr. Matthew Phinney.


If you enjoyed this article, check out these other articles about Back Pain:
Scoliosis Treatment and Relief
Spinal Decompression for Back Pain
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