non-surgical scoliosis treatment Posted in: Treatment

The traditional way to treat scoliosis involves periods of observation, bracing (though this is generally for adolescent patients whose spines are not fully developed) and then surgery if the curve progresses much past 40 degrees. Many doctors will tell you that surgery is the only way to treat a scoliotic curve greater than 45 degrees. But there are non-surgical scoliosis treatment options available.

Surgery can correct a curve by about 50 percent, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent future progression. Rods have been known to bend, or even break, due to an increasing spinal curve. It’s also a fairly invasive surgery. Long rods are anchored with hooks and screws to help support the spine while new bone material is added and later fuses with the spine. The rods hold the spine in the desired position while the bone fuses.

Before diving into surgery, it’s important to weigh all of the information to ensure it’s right for you.

Alternative Treatments

If you’re looking for a non-surgical scoliosis treatment, you do have options. Physical therapy, yoga and chiropractic treatments all have some level of success with scoliosis patients. Although there is not as much research on alternative treatments as there is on bracing and surgery, case studies have proven that these treatments can succeed, so that more research is warranted.

As always, before beginning any non-surgical scoliosis treatment, it’s important to ensure that the treatment program is scoliosis-specific and reputable. General physical therapy, yoga and chiropractic sessions will not have much effect on scoliosis patients. They may even include exercises, stretches or adjustments that will actively make the Cobb angle worse, as they do not consider the unique biomechanics of the scoliotic spine

Let’s take a look at each non-surgical scoliosis treatment option in a little more detail.

Physical Therapy

Scoliosis-specific physical therapy was spearheaded by the Europeans, and is incredibly popular across the Atlantic. The exercises are generally customized based on your individual curve and work to strengthen and balance the muscles in the back.

The Schroth method, created in Germany in 1921, has gained some medical advocacy over the years and is now more or less common in the US. Focusing on the core and trunk muscles, the exercises and breathing techniques work to balance the posture and improve lung function. Though these exercises are hard work and must be done diligently to achieve the desired results, the Schroth method has decades of proven success behind its name.

Yoga

Many adults with scoliosis use yoga to lower pain levels and improve the overall function of the back, hip and leg muscles. Yoga can work to improve posture, as well as increase your flexibility and strength. As long as your yoga instructor is used to working with scoliosis patients and has an understanding of your specific case, yoga can be a very effective pain reliever as well as a muscle and joint mobilizer.

One great program is Elise Miller’s Yoga for Scoliosis. She developed yoga routines that improve posture by strengthening the weak muscles on the inner side of the curve and stretching muscles that have tightened on the outer side. Since this routine was created specifically for scoliosis patients, it does not include poses that will compromise your spine.

Chiropractic

There is a bit more risk with chiropractic adjustments than with other alternative treatments. Many traditional chiropractic adjustments involve moving the neck in ways that could be damaging to someone with scoliosis. Because of this, it’s essential to find a chiropractor with scoliosis knowledge and experience. Safe and precise adjustments can be very beneficial in correcting a scoliotic curve.

Scoliosis-specific adjustments use specialized instruments to precisely and gently re-align the neck. X-rays let scoliosis experts know which adjustments to the neck, hips or lower back would be useful in re-aligning the curve into a natural position.

Combining Alternative Treatments

Because all of these non-surgical scoliosis treatments have some merit, the path leading to the best results for you could be a combination of all three. Scoliosis-specific physical therapy exercises, stretches and specialized chiropractic adjustments can all work together to correct and stabilize the curve. This approach to treatment stops progression and has had success in actually correcting the curve, often over a matter of months.

We’ve seen this approach work firsthand since our own CLEAR treatment is one such program. Using an advanced system of x-rays and physical examinations, we formulate a personalized plan utilizing adjustments, exercises and stretches, as well as massages and other therapies. A typical CLEAR session begins with therapies that work to loosen the spine and prepare it for the adjustments, like massages and stretching. After the scoliosis-specific adjustment, patients perform exercises to strengthen postural muscles and improve both posture and balance. These exercises stabilize the corrections achieved with the adjustments.

If you’ve explored the options of bracing and surgery and found they aren’t right for you, one of these alternative treatments may help you get the results you’re after. Every scoliosis patient is different in what they hope to get from their treatment. If your goals revolve around lifestyle improvements, like improved breathing, better posture or pain relief, one of these alternative treatments could be best. Talk over all available options with your doctor to choose the right treatment for you.

Have you tried a non-surgical scoliosis treatment? Did it work for you? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

19 comments on “Non-Surgical Scoliosis Treatment Options”

  1. 1
    Gunvantrai Hirani on October 5, 2016

    I think that alternative treatment is advisable and agree with its implications and implementation too

  2. 2
    Leonid Slutsker on October 5, 2016

    How to find a health practitioner trained in your CLEAR treatment?

    1. 3
      Dr. Josh Woggon on October 6, 2016

      To find a CLEAR Doctor, please visit the Find a Doctor page by clicking on the link at the top-middle of the page. If there is not a CLEAR Doctor in your area, you may be interested in learning more about Intensive Care (IC) treatment. Under “About CLEAR,” simply click the link “The CLEAR Approach” for more information about the difference between Standard Treatment and IC Treatment plans.

  3. 4
    Rose Meinecke on October 7, 2016

    I would like to make an appointment.

    1. 5
      Dr. Josh Woggon on October 7, 2016

      Hello,
      The CLEAR Scoliosis Institute is a Non-Profit Organization that provides training and education to Doctors of Chiropractic; we do not provide treatment directly to patients. Once a chiropractor has completed our training and agrees to abide by our standards for treating scoliosis patients, we grant them the right to call themselves a CLEAR Certified Doctor. However, their clinics remain privately-owned. In order to schedule an appointment, please contact the CLEAR Scoliosis Center where you would like to receive care. The doctor and their staff will be able to assist you in scheduling. You can find a list of CLEAR Certified Doctors by clicking on “Find a Doctor” at the top-middle or bottom-left of the page.
      Thank you, and congratulations on taking the first step in your journey towards optimal spinal health!

  4. 6
    Geraldine Kemshall on October 8, 2016

    have not had any treatment nor help just a very S now spine an 4 inches shorter

  5. 7
    Ginger on October 12, 2016

    I have had scoliosis all my life.. I had surgery on my back when I was 8 years old and in a body cast for 6 mths ,, it didn’t work my back is worse then ever, I’m in pain all the time,

  6. 8
    Kendra on October 28, 2016

    I have had scoliosis my whole life. I’ve been to a chiropractor sine the age 14 . Now age 18. It does give you some relief but still my curve continued to grow. It causes me lots of pain but I’m still very flexible and can move normally like others. However it has caused my hips to shift as well. In all those years I have also had two braces. All doctors are considering surgery. My curve is past 50 ° . I’m at a very young age. I ride horses and I’m a very active person. Would surgery be the better option for me at this point ?

    1. 9
      Dr. Josh Woggon on October 31, 2016

      Hello,
      The decision whether or not to have surgery for your scoliosis is an important one. Once the surgery is done, it cannot be undone. The rods can be removed or replaced, but the removal of the discs and other parts of the spine is permanent. If the surgery is unsuccessful in helping you get out of pain or improve the symmetry of your body, your options for future treatment will be limited. Furthermore, not everyone returns to the same levels of activity they enjoyed prior to the surgery.
      Before undergoing surgery, it is important to ensure that all other non-surgical treatment methods have been considered. The orthopedic approach of observation (or doing nothing), bracing, and surgery might not be the ideal path for every person. There are alternatives available, including CLEAR, scoliosis physiotherapy (such as SEAS, Schroth, and others), yoga, and more. If you’ve tried everything and nothing works, surgery will still be an option. But after having surgery, these alternatives may not be as effective.
      For more information, I highly recommend “To operate or not – a debate article,” which does a wonderful job of presenting the pros and cons of scoliosis surgery. You can find a copy of the article here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2572584/
      Take the time to educate yourself as much as possible, from as many sources as possible. Talk to people who have had the the surgery – not just 2 or 3 years later, either, but after 10, 15, 20, or more. After all, if you decide to have the surgery, it is something you will live with for the rest of your life, so it’s important to think about how your long-term goals might be affected by it.
      If you are interested in any additional information or resources, please do not hesitate to explore our website, and feel free to reach out to us through blogs or e-mail, care@clear-institute.org. We wish you all the best of health and happiness!

  7. 10
    Agatha Dyck on November 3, 2016

    I found out about three years ago – at 12 years of age – that i had scoliosis it was at 37 degrees it has progressed up to 47 degrees now – I’m 15 years old – and my specialist is now recommending surgery… Gods got a plan but this is very helpful information.

    1. 11
      Dr. Josh Woggon on November 3, 2016

      Thank you! We’re so glad to hear that you found our resources to be valuable. Surgery can be a scary prospect to consider… it’s not a decision to take lightly. If there is any information we can provide or questions we can help answer, please don’t hesitate to let us know. You are not alone. Believe and be hopeful – the same power that made you, loves you, and will see you through! 🙂

  8. 12
    Jason McQuown on November 15, 2016

    I was born with spina bifida, my left leg below the knee has a lot of atrophied muscle, and is about 2 inches shorter than the right leg. i am 46. and wasnt officially diagnosed until recently. i google my specific type of spina bifida. Mylellamalingacel… i know the spelling cant be correct, but its as close as i can get. It said scoliosis is very common with my diagnosis. is there help/ back is becoming a real issue. i recently had xrays and was told there is degeneration in my spine… arthritis, is present in my ankles knees hips and spine.

    1. 13
      Dr. Josh Woggon on November 15, 2016

      Hello,
      Typically, myelomeningocele (the most severe form of spina bifida) is diagnosed shortly after birth. Spina bifida that is not diagnosed until adulthood typically does not cause any disabilities. I’d recommend that you consult with a CLEAR doctor about your case, and provide them with copies of your medical records. After reviewing your case and having the opportunity to perform a physical examination, they would be able to tell you if CLEAR treatment could help you with your pain. You can find a doctor by clicking on “Find a Doctor” at the top-middle or bottom-right of the page.

  9. 14
    Alex jones on December 20, 2016

    I had my first surgery when I was 14 and I was placed in a brace for about 6 months. My rods that were placed in my back had to be removed cause my body rejected them so instead they fused my spine another way at the age of 33. I’ve had a total of 3 spine surgeries and I’m always in bad pain. It’s so bad now that it’s very rough sitting or standing for short periods of time. The only little relief I get now is laying down and that isn’t always helpful. It’s mentally wearing on my mind seriously bad lately cause I feel like I’m getting worse and it’s affecting my work life.

  10. 15
    Dave Anderson on May 30, 2017

    A friend of mine recently found out that he has scoliosis and he is trying to find out ways to be able to combat scoliosis without having to have any surgery done. Like you mentioned, there are a lot of different options for helping to fix it like seeing a chiropractor, getting regular adjustments, and wearing braces. I am not sure that my friend knows about these different options so I am going to have to tell him about it.

  11. 16
    Cannalux CBD Oil on September 29, 2017

    You are my inspiration, I possess few web logs and occasionally run out from brand :
    ).

    1. 17
      Dr. Josh Woggon on October 1, 2017

      Thank you, glad to hear you appreciate the content!

  12. 18
    Herbal XT Review on September 29, 2017

    Hello.This post was extremely interesting, particularly because I was
    browsing for thoughts on this topic last Friday.

  13. 19
    Jennifer on October 4, 2018

    It’s good to hear that many people are being educated about non-surgical options for scoliosis treatment.

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