scoliosis chiropractor Posted in: Treatment

Most people may assume that your run-of-the-mill chiropractor is the best option for any sort of back problem, including even the most complicated conditions. But that logic can be faulty when it comes to scoliosis.

Although many believe that chiropractors are doctors of the spine, the actual definition is a healthcare professional who treats nerve issues with manipulations or adjustments to the spine. These adjustments are often extremely beneficial in alleviating back pain caused by things like pinched nerves, disc pain and sciatica. But chronic or long-term spinal conditions, like scoliosis, require some specialization.

A scoliotic spine is not your average spine, so adjustments that would be perfectly fine on a normal spine can worsen the curve or even injure a scoliotic spine. The average chiropractor isn’t necessarily an expert on scoliosis and its intricacies, and may not realize the damage that certain adjustments can cause. A scoliosis chiropractor, however, has knowledge of the complexities of a scoliotic spine and will be able to help.

Traditional Chiropractic Care Likely Won’t Help

A controversial method for treating scoliosis, traditional chiropractic care is most effective for short-term pain relief, such as headaches, neck pain and back pain. The results are not yet in as to whether or not traditional methods can reduce the Cobb angle in a scoliotic spine. Therefore, traditional chiropractic care is only recommended for people with small Cobb angles (20 degrees or less) who’ve finished growing. In order to treat scoliosis with chiropractic adjustments, knowledge of the disorder is paramount.

Common chiropractic adjustments, such as pushing on the middle of the back or twisting the neck, can make the Cobb angle worse and even injure someone with scoliosis. For example, if you don’t have a normal backward curve in the middle of your back (loss of the thoracic kyphosis, also known as flatback syndrome), pushing on it in an attempt to manually create a natural curve (a common maneuver in traditional chiropractic treatment) will only aggravate the surrounding nerves and may actually make the curve worse. It’s also fairly common for someone with scoliosis to have joint hypermobility in the neck, causing it to be unstable. Twisting or turning an unstable neck is never a good idea and could aggravate the ligament instability in the neck of  a person with scoliosis.

A Scoliosis Chiropractor Can Help

Even though traditional chiropractic care is not always the best option, you shouldn’t throw all chiropractic care out the window as a possible treatment method. Scoliosis-specific chiropractic adjustments can be incredibly beneficial to people in all walks of life. From adolescents to the elderly, adjustments made by a scoliosis expert can make a difference in both the Cobb angle and a person’s quality of life. Scoliosis-specific chiropractic adjustments are an excellent option for those looking to avoid a brace, surgery, or who want to experience positive lifestyle changes, such as improved breathing and posture.

By taking multiple X-rays of the spine, a scoliosis chiropractor can measure a person’s unique spinal curve and determine the best adjustments for the patient’s scoliotic curve. These adjustments, along with other alternative treatments, can work to stabilize and eventually improve the Cobb angle.

Adjustments are precise and gentle, taking into account any hypermobility or other issues unique to the scoliosis condition. Scoliosis chiropractors use a precision mechanical adjusting instrument to adjust the neck and other sensitive joints to ensure the most precise adjustment possible without any potentially harmful movements. Depending on the measurement of the spine in a person’s X-rays, a scoliosis chiropractor may perform adjustments on the neck, back, hips or all three.

The bottom line is that specialization does matter when it comes to scoliosis. A scoliosis chiropractor will know the specifics of the disease and how to treat sensitive areas with the necessary precision. But you may be wondering how to tell the difference between a scoliosis chiropractor and one less experienced with the disorder. These questions are a great starting point! Have an honest conversation with your doctor about the methods they’re using and all possible options. Ask to have an active role in choosing your treatment. Taking control of your spinal health will enable you to make the right treatment decisions for you.

Have you tried chiropractic treatment for scoliosis? Do you think specialization matters? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

8 comments on “Scoliosis Chiropractor: Does Specialization Matter?”

  1. 1
    Pam on November 2, 2016

    I have been seeing one particular chiro who emphasizes soft tissue in his work. It has been helpful for minimizing pain I would say. But I’ve also asked him numerous times about taking the work “to another level”. Never get an answer so I assume he doesn’t know and I’m now trying to figure out what I can do within my budget. That’s the rub (haha)!

    1. 2
      Dr. Josh Woggon on November 2, 2016

      Please consider sharing with him the resources we’ve made freely available specifically to encourage more chiropractors to get involved with scoliosis, found here: https://www.clear-institute.org/doctor-resources/dc/
      And a good pun is always welcome in my book – thanks for the chuckle! 🙂

  2. 3
    Gerri Delisle on November 2, 2016

    Thank you, My chiropractor, Dr. DeCamp, Everett, WA just got the special x-ray machine to definitely measure the spine, degree of all factors and determine what adjustments and working with specialized equipment will be beneficial. Total faith in him and going in for full x-ray this next week! Most modern equipment north of Seattle.

  3. 4
    Guy Bucci DC on November 29, 2016

    Thanks for this great post! I think specialization within the chiropractic field is paramount. And specifically for scoliosis, it is very important. I specialize in soft tissue injuries and sports injuries. Therefore, I refer out to other chiropractic specialists when I come across patients with scoliosis. As a whole, I feel the chiropractic profession needs more of this specialization. So thanks again for this great article!

  4. 5
    Steven on November 30, 2016

    Is minor scoliosis worth having corrected?

    1. 6
      Dr. Josh Woggon on December 1, 2016

      This is a very good question – I am glad you asked! For decades, conventional wisdom held that scoliosis of less than 20 degrees was a minor inconvenience, and not worthy of treatment. However, in the last few years, new research has come out which challenges this assumption. Doctors said that mild scoliosis did not interfere with lung function – they were wrong. In truth, even mild scoliosis reduces the body’s ability to exercise and perform at its full potential. Research also shows that kids with mild scoliosis miss more days of school and report more limitations in their daily activities. Mild scoliosis can also be a potential source of pain – Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the band Nirvana, had a mild scoliosis which caused him a great deal of pain, and may have contributed to his death. It is certainly possible for someone with a mild scoliosis to have no pain or limitations, just like it is still possible for a car to be driven even if the alignment of the tires is slightly off. However, it creates additional wear & tear, and increases the chances that something might go wrong down the road. The good news is that the CLEAR treatment protocols are very effective in cases of mild scoliosis; this is another good reason to treat mild cases, as every big curve started out small. Treating curves early, when they are still minor, is much easier than treating more severe cases.

  5. 7
    Davis Lawrence on December 12, 2016

    What are your thoughts on lower intensity lasers with respect to scoliosis? My chiropractic office has been using it for treatments but not specific to this nature. Any thoughts?

    1. 8
      Dr. Josh Woggon on December 13, 2016

      Thank you for asking! We have received this question several times in the past, and I’m glad you asked. Although lasers certainly have their place in the treatment of many conditions as well as speeding the healing of many types of wounds, we haven’t found any evidence that lasers can aid in the treatment of scoliosis per se. Many of our certified doctors have explored the idea of utilizing lasers as a part of the scoliosis treatment protocol, and their consensus so far has been that it does not appear to significantly influence the results in terms of spinal correction or sensorimotor reintegration. There may be ways that someone with scoliosis could nevertheless benefit from cold laser therapy, but we don’t recommend that lasers be used to treat the scoliosis directly, or expected to influence the progression or stabilization of the spinal curvatures.

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