When someone decides to undergo scoliosis treatment, it is important they understand all of their options, and the typical results of each treatment.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to treating scoliosis. Just like each person is unique, each case of scoliosis is unique, and deserves to be treated as such.

When is Treating Scoliosis Necessary?

Most medical guidelines state that cases of mild scoliosis (defined as a Cobb angle of under 20 degrees) are undeserving of treatment.  These guidelines do not take into account the preferences of the patient, nor their health status.  The Cobb angle has a very poor correlation with most things that matter to a person living with scoliosis –  like being pain-free, functioning at their full potential, and having good posture and appearance.  Considering that even mild cases of scoliosis have been found to impair the body’s ability to breathe and exercise, to increase the risk of chronic pain, and to change the symmetry of the body, CLEAR believes that every individual should decide for themselves whether or not they would like to receive treatment.

Some scoliosis experts believe if a person with scoliosis is not currently experiencing any pain or problems, then treatment is unnecessary.  This short-sighted approach does not take into account the long-term effects of living with alterations in spinal biomechanics.  If the alignment in a vehicle is off, driving that vehicle for many miles will eventually result in excessive wear and tear on the tires, shock absorbers, and other components.  In the same way, scoliosis left untreated can place additional strain upon the hips, knees, and back muscles, which could lead to problems down the road.

Treating scoliosis becomes more difficult as it progresses.  Even if the Cobb angle does not increase over time, the body adapts to maintain the scoliosis, and grows more resistant to change.  The muscles, tendons, and spinal discs gradually conform to the altered position of the spine, and the brain grows accustomed to patterns that reinforce the curvature.

CLEAR advocates a proactive approach to treating scoliosis.  Treating scoliosis is always less stressful and more successful when the curve is mild and flexible.

Treatment Expectations

If the patient’s expectations for the outcome of care are different from the doctor’s, the patient could be dissatisfied even though the doctor regards the treatment as successful.  Focus on what you want to receive from your treatment and be sure to communicate your priorities to your doctor.  

Your examinations and re-examinations should include assessments that are important to you. If your lung function is important, always insist upon pre- and post- spirometry testing.  If the symmetry of your body is important, make sure your doctor takes postural assessments at each visit, and expresses the results in a manner that allows you to measure the difference between exams.   If your chosen treatment method cannot obtain the results you are looking for, try a different approach.

Treatment Options

When it comes to treating scoliosis, surgery and bracing are the most common treatment options. However, these are not the only options. There are alternatives. Other treatment options include physical therapy, traditional chiropractic care and the CLEAR approach.

Every case of scoliosis is unique, making treatment outcomes impossible to predict. You should always consult with a qualified scoliosis specialist before beginning any type of treatment for your scoliosis. For some guidance on what to speak with your doctor about, please visit our Questions to Ask Your Doctor page.