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What is Scoliosis? How is it treated? How can a chiropractor help?

Scoliosis is a spinal condition that causes a curvature of the spine. There are several types of spinal curvatures that fall under the diagnosis of scoliosis.

When viewed from a side position, there is a normal curvature of the spine that we all have. However, if there is a visible curve when viewing from the back, this is called scoliosis.

chiropractor holding xray of scoliosis patient

What Causes Scoliosis?

The most common form of scoliosis is called Idiopathic Scoliosis. Idiopathic means that there is no apparent cause of the condition. While there are several types of scoliosis as follows, this article will focus mainly on idiopathic scoliosis.

Other Types of Scoliosis are the following:

• Degenerative Scoliosis – caused by injuries or falls, osteoporosis, or fractures
• Neuromuscular Scoliosis – caused by muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy
• Congenital Scoliosis – due to birth defects that can affect the vertebral segments of the spine

In most cases, the condition does not cause pain or discomfort and therefore can go unnoticed unless a chiropractor happens to notice the spinal curvature during an exam.

Generally, the condition is diagnosed based on certain physical characteristics such as the following:

What are the Symptoms of Scoliosis?

In most cases, the condition does not cause pain or discomfort and therefor can go unnoticed unless a chiropractor happens to notice the spinal curvature during an exam.
Generally, the condition is diagnosed based on certain physical characteristics such as the following:
•    As noted, a visible curvature of the spine when viewed from behind
•    Asymmetry of the shoulders
•    Asymmetry of the rib cage
•    Asymmetry of the hips
•    One leg may appear longer than the other
•    A general appearance of the body tilting to one side

Who is at Risk of Scoliosis?

While there are no typical risk factors involved, the condition is usually noticed during the growth spurt that children and teens experience between the ages of 10 and 15.

How is Scoliosis Diagnosed?

Along with a visual examination, X-rays may be taken to confirm the diagnosis of scoliosis. During diagnosis, a special measuring technique called the Cobb Technique will be used to calculate the spinal curvature, and estimate how far it will progress.

Monitoring and Treatment of Scoliosis

Scoliosis is most commonly diagnosed when noticed during the course of a routine checkup. As noted, the condition is usually noticed in children between the ages of 10 and 15. Because the skeleton is not fully developed and continues to grow during this period, there is a risk of the curvature worsening over time.

Careful monitoring is required during this period, and if necessary, one or more of the treatments listed below. The goal of treatment is to prevent severe curvature of the spine.

Monitoring Scoliosis

Observation of the patient throughout the growth phase is the key to preventing further spinal issues. The chiropractor will take special measurements of the spine to use as a base point.


If a curvature measures ten percent or less, the condition is not considered to be scoliosis, but rather simply an asymmetry of the spine.


If a curvature measure over ten percent in a child that is still growing, careful observation and monitoring should be conducted at 4 to 6 month intervals by an orthopedic surgeon.


If the curvature progresses by more than 5 percent during the interval period or exceeds 30 percent at any time, treatment becomes necessary


If the curvature does not progress more than 5 percent during the interval period, it is safe to assume that the condition is not getting any worse, and treatment will probably not be required

Scoliosis Treatment

If treatment is necessary, the two most common treatment types are back braces and surgery.


Bracing is most commonly used when there is a risk of the curvature becoming worse over time. And while the use of a brace will not straighten an existing curvature, it will help to slow down or halt the progression of the curvature.

Typically, a brace will be worn until the skeleton has reached ‘maturity’ and the child stops growing. Once growth is complete, the likelihood of the curvature progression is low to none.
A scoliosis brace is made especially for each patient. Made of molded plastic, it can be worn underneath clothing, some patients will need to wear the brace 24 hours a day, only removing it for bathing. The type of brace will depend on the location of the curvature, the severity of the curvature, and the position and rotation of vertebrae in the spine.
The length of time a scoliosis brace must be used will depend on the age of the child, and the percentage of curvature that exists.


Surgery is a treatment option only for those patients who have a severe curvature of the spine (at least 40 percent). While all surgeries carry risks, the benefit of scoliosis surgery is that not only will it prevent further curvature, but it can correct existing curvature.

During scoliosis surgery, metal rods will be placed to hold the spine in the correct position. In general, these rods are not removed from the patient, even after the spine has fully healed.

Scoliosis surgery can be performed in one of two ways:
1. Back – during this type of a surgery, a long incision will be made in the back that runs the full length of the spine.
2. Front – for curvatures that affect the thoracolumbar junction.

Chiropractic Treatment For Scoliosis

As noted, most cases of scoliosis are diagnosed based on a visual exam of the patient. Most people don’t actually experience any symptoms, however in severe cases, patients report moderate levels of back and neck pain. Chiropractic therapy is a great way to address this type of pain,Chiropractic treatment for scoliosis will depend on the severity of the patient’s spinal curvature, and how much pain they report.

The primary method is to perform mobilizations and adjustments to the spine and joints. This treatment is often combined with other treatments like physical therapy. Stretching and strengthening exercises are often prescribed to help strengthen the neck and back.


Scoliosis is a condition where a curvature develops in the spine. While in many cases, no treatment is necessary, some cases can be more severe. Along with bracing and possible spinal surgery, Chiropractic therapy can be used to promote a healthy spine, and reduce back pain associated with scoliosis.

The Vancouver chiropractors at Broadway AT Yew Chiropractic & Massage have diagnosed and treated several patients with scoliosis. Contact us today if you have any questions about this treatable condition.

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