Scoliosis is another term for the excessive curvature of the spine. Viewed from the side, the upper part of a normal spine is slightly rounded, while the lower spine sways in slightly. Scoliosis can exaggerate the curve, causing a “C” or “S” shape. The spinal curvature must be more than 10 degrees out of the normal range to meet diagnostic criteria for scoliosis. Scoliosis usually appears during the period of very fast growth between age 10 and the early teens. It may occur later, however, and when it occurs in adults is called degenerative scoliosis. Chiropractic treatment can help with postural correction of scoliosis.
Although the exact cause is unknown, scoliosis probably has a genetic cause. It tends to run in families, and a family history of scoliosis increases the risk of developing this condition. Females are more likely to be affected than males. Problems like congenital abnormalities, neurological and muscular disorders, infections and fractures of the spine may be contributing factors and are known to cause spinal deformities. Frequently, however, scoliosis simply appears for no obvious reason.
Scoliosis is rather like removing structural supports in a building. As the spine curves, it can also begin to rotate, stressing muscles, ligaments and tendons. Over time, arthritis can develop in the spine, and severe scoliosis can restrict the patient's ability to breathe deeply. Despite these stresses, most people with scoliosis don't complain of back pain. However, the postural changes that result can cause muscle spasm, and postural changes also affect the rest of the body, so chiropractic treatment is usually directed toward postural correction.
Treatment varies according to the severity of the condition. The focus of chiropractic treatment is on postural correction and if begun early, it can help the spine to grow in a more normal fashion. Exercise to strengthen and stretch muscles, careful attention to posture and treatment of misaligned joints can help correct the spinal curvature or prevent it from becoming worse. Occasionally, patients may need a brace, and in truly severe cases, surgery may be necessary to prevent crippling spinal deformities.
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