Back pain is one of the most common health complaints by people across the world. The pain may be localized into one or more of the three major segments of the spinal column; cervical (neck area), thoracic (middle back), lumbar (just above the buttocks), and sacral spine (down into the buttocks area).
By far the most common location of back pain is the lower spine, or lumbar (also called lumbago). Acute low back pain (lumbago) is the number five most common reason for visits to the doctor. But there is another, potentially more serious, spinal problem, and that is scoliosis.
What Is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a Greek word meaning curvature; thus scoliosis is a lateral or sideways curvature of the spine. Scoliosis is more common in females, and usually begins in childhood. It is estimated that approximately 2% of the population suffers from this condition. The curvature can start at the thoracic area of the spine, and rotate down to a hump at the rib cage. The Adams Forward Bending Test is even used in Physical Education classes in schools to determine if any children may be afflicted with this abnormality.
The causes of scoliosis are not fully known, which is why it is referred to as "idiopathic". In children three or youngger, it is called infantile scoliosis; ages 4-10 is juvenile scoliosis; and older kids, 11-18, adolescent scoliosis. There is also congenital scoliosis (present at birth) and neuromuscular scoliosis, usually caused by a nervous system malfunction affecting muscles (eg, polio, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida). Scoliosis can worsen during growth spurts.
There are no symptoms overall. However, the Bending Test may show one shoulder higher than the other, the pelvis is tilted; your chiropractor can measure the lengths of the legs to check for uneven lengths. A person suffering from scoliosis can have low back pain, a tired feeling in the spine after sitting or standing for long periods.
It is very important to have X-rays taken from the spine, since a curvature may be worse than can be detected by visual examination. There are also MRI scans, and a special spinal curve measurement called scoliometer screening. If it is determined that scoliosis is present, then the individual may choose chiropractic treatment.
It should be noted that most idiopathic scoliosis cases do not need treatment of any kind. The only thing required could be a back brace, which can be adjusted as the child grows. Only in the most severe cases is surgery recommended by medical professionals.
While there are not many really definitive studies on chiropractic treatment of scoliosis, there are certainly encouraging results with specific chiropractic treatments of mild idiopathic scoliosis (less than 20 degrees curvature, with no complicating conditions) in children 9-15 years old. The full-spell adjustments were given three times a week, for one year. Special attention was paid to the sacroliliac joints. Muscle work around the curvature area was also performed. Children with mild scoliosis are encouraged to exercise regularly, and to hang by the hands to encourage the spine to open the concavity of the curve. There has been as much a reduction of 2.6 degrees in spine curvature by utilizing chiropractic treatment of scoliosis.
The medical community does not offer any treatments at all for spinal curves less than 20 degrees, and may not even consider this spinal variance as a case of scoliosis.
While the chiropractic treatment of scoliosis is still in its investigative research phase, the results so far have been extremely encouraging. There still have to be randomized, controlled clinical trials. But chiropractic care of scoliosis offers distinct advantages over the management and monitoring of early-stage scoliosis.