While your back has a natural curve in an S shape when viewed from the side, scoliosis is an abnormal lateral curvature in your spine which is thought to occur in 3-5% of the population. In the majority of cases, this develops spontaneously usually during a period of rapid growth. Usually between the ages of 10-15 and more commonly in girls than boys. Most curves are very mild and do not cause any symptoms. However, some curves are more severe and can lead to consequences cosmetically and symptomatically particularly if the curve becomes greater.
It is important to identify a scoliosis early and measure it radiographically so that the extent of the curve can be recorded to monitor progression. The younger a scoliosis appears, the more likely it is to progress. If curves are severe or progressing rapidly, prompt referral to a specialist is necessary to give you the advice you need on the most appropriate treatment.
Living with a scoliosis is for most individuals nothing out of the ordinary however in some cases, the biomechanical changes as a result of the shape of the spine can cause considerable discomfort. Asymmetrical loading occurs through the spine due to the S shaped curve which can cause muscle and joint tightness/inflammation as well as long term asymmetrical disc and spinal degeneration. The whole kinematic chain beneath the spine is affected particularly the pelvis and lower limb joints due to uneven force loads. In addition, rotation of the vertebrae associated with a curve in the upper spine can affect the ribs and in some cases, lung capacity.
While there has been research into the ability of Chiropractors to reduce the degree of curvature in the spine, there is not conclusive evidence for permanent long term reduction. What we can do however is aim to improve the function of the surrounding structures and decrease the tension present within the muscles and joints of affected areas. Previous research has found that while treatment in combination with exercise may not result in a permanent reduction in the curve when measured radiologically, persistently lower pain rating and disability scores were maintained.