Mild scoliosis is a term used to categorize cases of scoliosis that the orthopedic and medical community do not believe require treatment. It is the official position of the CLEAR Scoliosis Institute that people living with scoliosis should have the right to decide whether or not they would like to receive treatment, and, if so, which treatment they would prefer.
The rationale behind not treating mild scoliosis rests upon the premise that mild scoliosis does not affect a person’s health. New research has begun to challenge this premise. Mild scoliosis has been shown to impair a person’s ability to function at their full athletic potential, and cause distortions in posture and appearance; these cosmetic changes can have emotional and psychological effects which are difficult to measure. Mild scoliosis can become a problem later in life, as small imbalances over time create wear and tear upon the joints and muscles. It is also possible for mild scoliosis to cause pain and other health problems.
Traditionally mild scoliosis is “treated” with observation. X-rays are taken periodically, usually every six months or so, and if the curve has progressed to a moderate scoliosis, then bracing is recommended to prevent it from continuing to worsen. Some doctors recommend nighttime bracing for certain types of mild curves. Another type of brace that may be prescribed is a dynamic brace, such as the SpineCor brace. Some patients may try traditional (non-CLEAR) chiropractic; while this may be helpful in some cases, evidence suggests there is little benefit to the procedures employed by most chiropractors, even in cases of mild scoliosis.
If you have been diagnosed with mild scoliosis, it’s your decision if you would like to receive treatment or not. CLEAR and its doctors believe that any misalignments of the spine, even small ones, interfere with the normal function of the body. The nerves that connect the brain to your organs run through your spine; problems with the spine can affect these nerves. While orthopedic doctors typically recommend watching and waiting to see if the scoliosis gets worse, CLEAR believes that this is the best time to be proactive about your spine. If there is a way to prevent mild scoliosis from getting worse, it is worth investing the time and the effort.
There are risk factors which can help determine whether or not a small case of scoliosis might get worse over time. Some of these risk factors have been recognized by the medical community and others come from unique, new observations made by CLEAR doctors of chiropractic. These potential risk factors include:
- Scoliosis that occurs at a younger age, when there is more growing left to do
- Female gender (scoliosis tends to worsen more commonly in females than in males)
- Forward head posture, where the head is carried in front of the body, placing stress upon the muscles of the neck and back
- Alignment of the head, chest, and hips; this is referred to as “compensated,” if the shoulders are centered over the hips or “uncompensated” if they are not. Scoliosis is more likely to worsen if the posture is uncompensated
- Problems with balance, coordination, and proprioception (balancing on one leg with the eyes closed)
- Excessive flexibility or hypermobility of the joints (ligament laxity)
- Tension on the spinal cord
- A loss of the healthy, good curves of the spine (the cervical lordosis, thoracic kyphosis, and lumbar lordosis)
- “Librarian”-type posture, where the neck is in slight flexion and the person is looking through the tops of their eyes
- Inability to touch the chin to the chest
- Changes in gait (walking), including a reduction in the normal counter-rotation of the hips and shoulders, and lessened swinging of the arms
If you or a loved one has a mild case of scoliosis, we would like to urge you to schedule an appointment with a CLEAR Certified Doctor to learn more about your options. It is always best to be proactive, and to err on the side of caution. While many cases of mild scoliosis do not get worse, every big curve once started out small. You can trust your CLEAR Certified Doctor not to prescribe unnecessary treatment if it is not needed, and to provide you with honest feedback regarding the potential for the scoliosis to worsen over time.