Exploring the Chiropractic Angle to Treat Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis
Most of us correlate back pain and spinal problems with aging. It’s true that many people don’t begin to experience back troubles until they reach at least middle age. However, adolescent back issues are also very real and serious. One of the most common causes of childhood back pain is a condition called adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. This particular form of scoliosis is diagnosed in children between the ages of three and nine. While idiopathic scoliosis can be present in infancy, we often find that the signs of this condition become more noticeable during growth spurts. This is not a condition that will correct as a child gets older. In fact, it is a progressive condition.
Idiopathic scoliosis is one of three types of scoliosis associated with a telltale side-to-side curve in the spine. A form of scoliosis that is defined as being “idiopathic” means that no definite underlying cause can be found. However, we do see that this condition tends to run in families. Generally, girls are more likely to develop idiopathic scoliosis than boys. What should you be on the lookout for when detecting childhood scoliosis? Here’s a rundown of the common signs of idiopathic scoliosis in children:
- Uneven shoulder height.
- The appearance of one shoulder blade protruding more than the other.
- A difference in hip height.
- Uneven rib visibility.
Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of scoliosis. It is often discovered at school screenings or physical checkups. However, it’s important for parents and caregivers to be proactive about scoliosis screenings because children who are diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis typically see good results with monitoring and early treatment. This makes early diagnosis critical.
Treatment Options for Idiopathic Scoliosis
Unfortunately, many children who have idiopathic scoliosis do develop pain in the lower back that can make it difficult to stay seated for long periods of time at school or participate in certain physical activities. For some, options like bracing and surgery may be appropriate. However, many patients decide to manage their scoliosis using less invasive options that strengthen and correct the spine over time. There is growing evidence to support that chiropractic care is a very effective long-term treatment option for lower-back pain and adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. One notable study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that chiropractic treatment was associated with a reduction in the degree of curvature in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis after 18 months of conventional medical treatment had failed to stop curve progression. Researchers in this case concluded that chiropractic treatment and spinal manipulation may decrease the need for highly invasive corrective treatments like surgery.
A Closer Look at Why Chiropractic Care Is Promising for Idiopathic Scoliosis
It’s true that idiopathic scoliosis is a spinal issue that doesn’t have a properly identified cause in the medical community. However, plenty of work is being done on the workings of the nervous system that provides some interesting insights. Some newer research suggests that we’re actually look at a neurological defect in the area of the nervous system that controls things like body posture, balance and positioning. This opens up some interesting concepts regarding the best treatment options for correcting scoliosis. In the chiropractic approach, the nervous system is seen as a delicate internal ecosystem that must remain free of blockages, scar buildup and structural damage to work properly. What’s more, the healthy function of the nervous system ultimately helps to steer the health of the entire body from the chiropractic perspective.
Many parents are relieved to find gentle, holistic treatments for scoliosis that don’t involve using invasive, high-pressure procedures as default options. Chiropractic care provides a much gentler approach that works with the body to achieve correction over time instead of trying to “force” the spine to adjust without addressing the internal imbalances that may be at the root of the problem. Chiropractic therapy for idiopathic scoliosis is always something that is approached on a case-by-case basis. It is only after a thorough examination that takes into account a patient’s personal medical history that a treatment plan is developed. In addition, a chiropractor is able to adjust and tailor a treatment regiment as it progresses based on the results that are seen. Generally, a chiropractor works in close collaboration based on the preferences and comfort levels of adolescent patients and their parents. Here’s a look at some of the treatment routes that are commonly used in chiropractic care for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis:
- Full spinal adjustments.
- Heel lifts.
- Ongoing postural counseling.
It’s important to note that the information that a patient leaves the office with after each session can often be equally as important as the work that is done in a session. This is part of the holistic benefit of choosing chiropractic therapy over more forceful options that don’t necessarily take into account the role of the nervous system. For instance, a chiropractor will often devote time to showing a patient what proper posture looks and feels like. A patient will have an opportunity to practice using proper posture under the observation of a chiropractor. Being aware of how to maintain proper posture when doing things like standing, sitting, sleeping or participating in physical activity can simultaneously help to correct a spinal issue while also preventing more damage from occurring.
When Is It Time to Consider Chiropractic Treatments for Idiopathic Scoliosis?
The right time to begin care for idiopathic scoliosis is as soon as it’s detected. However, the need for proper care becomes more urgent once a child begins to experience lower-back pain as a result of this condition. Unfortunately, this is a progressive condition that can get worse as a child grows if no intervention takes place. Lower-back pain isn’t the most serious risk of allowing scoliosis to go untreated. Scoliosis can actually endanger the health of a child if a curvature turns severe enough to interfere with the function of the heart or lungs. In fact, some children actually experience shortness of breath and chest pain when scoliosis progresses to a dangerous point. Most medical professionals identify a curvature of more than 50 degrees as being in the “danger zone” for serious long-term problems. Taking therapeutic measures to try to prevent a curvature from reaching this point early on is one of the best options for preventing the need for surgery at some point in a child’s life.
Final Thoughts on Using Chiropractic Care for Adolescent Lower-Back Pain and Idiopathic Scoliosis
The primary goal of any scoliosis screening and treatment is to prevent degeneration and deformities in the spine. It is essential to begin therapy as early as possible to prevent severe pain or loss of mobility that may only leave room for invasive surgical procedures down the road. For many adolescents suffering from idiopathic scoliosis, chiropractic therapy is an effective early intervention that allows them to learn how to manage this condition while potentially correcting the underlying cause of curvature in the spine. If you’re seeking a holistic, gentle option for treating adolescent lower-back pain and idiopathic scoliosis, it may be time to explore what spinal manipulation and posture therapy from a chiropractor can offer.