Over the course of one’s life, the spine supports three natural curvatures. These normal spinal curvatures develop in the early years when as an infant, one learns to hold up it’s head, crawl and ultimately walk.
Postural analysis of these three curvatures can be observed when viewing an erect individual from the side. The middle of the spine (thoracic region) exhibits a kyphotic curvature. In a Kyphotic curvature, the spine is bent forward. Conversely, a backward curvature, or lordotic curvature, of the spine is present in both the neck (cervical) and lower back (lumbar).
When examining someone face to face, their spine should reveal no curvature. If a curve is apparent, they have scoliosis. Scoliosis is a disorder that produces an abnormal sideways or lateral curvature of the spine. Any lateral curvature of the spine is abnormal. When scoliosis is present, there are usually two curves: a primary curve in one direction and a compensatory curve in the opposite direction.
Scoliosis can occur for many reasons and is most commonly categorized into functional or structural forms. The functional form may occur due to a misaligned pelvis, with one leg being longer than the other. With this form of scoliosis, the individual’s spine is correctable since it’s shape has become corkscrewed to compensate for an injury to the rest of the body. The structural form is not correctable, and commonly is due to improper development of the thoracic spine, be it from genetic or idiopathic (unknown) reasons.
Scoliosis targets females more commonly than males and usually begins between the ages of eight and twenty. For this very reason, the symptoms of scoliosis are commonly misinterpreted as “growing pains.” Initially, the condition can go unnoticed if there are no apparent signs or symptoms. However, as the curvature worsens, signs and symptoms arise:
Spinal pain or discomfort
Uneven shoulders & hem lines
In advanced cases, symptoms can become quite severe due to compression of the heart, lungs, intestines, and other internal organs. This compression can diminish function of these vital organs and produce symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, or digestion issues.
The conventional approach to scoliosis has been one of periodic monitoring, especially in the teenage years when one can grow and develop quickly. If the curve becomes substantial enough, the individual is suited with an external structural brace. If the curve worsens with the application of bracing, then surgery becomes inevitable – two long metal rods are inserted into the back to anchor the spine and prevent movement.
The chiropractic approach to scoliosis is non-invasive and relies upon early detection. This is important, because some authorities suggest that scoliosis can develop in the spine as early as the first year of a child’s life. Through the use of specific spinal adjustments, education, and an arsenal of corrective stretching and strengthening exercises, chiropractic can affect the structure and function of the skeletal and muscular systems. In fact, chiropractic has been very successful in slowing the development of scoliotic curves and, in some cases, it has been able to reduce the degree of curvature.
Once again, the key to scoliosis is early detection. If you think yourself or a loved one may be suffering with scoliosis, take the initiative and schedule an appointment to be evaluated by your Comox Chiropractor, Dr. Houlgrave. He can help diagnose your problem and establish an effective course of treatment.