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September 21, 2020 4 min read

"Put your hands on your knees. Bend over."

Most of us remember the school nurse checking for scoliosis. The screening test hasn't changed much over the years. Now I wonder, did mild or probable scoliosis go undetected?

I didn't know about scoliosis when I was checked. I thought it was a 'disease'. Not until high school when one classmate wore a metal back brace did I realize scoliosis meant a 'crooked' spine.

The question is:

If you didn't have scoliosis as a child does that mean you don't have it now?

WHAT IS SCOLIOSIS?

Scoliosis is an abnormal curve of the spine often developing in early childhood. It shows an UNEVEN 'growth pattern' and often diagnosed at 11 or 12 years old. It is more prevalent and progresses faster in girls than in boys.

A photo of a girl with scoliosis and a doctor analyzing her back.

Scoliosis is the most common spinal condition in children and adolescents.

It occurs in approximately 3 percent of the population, about 7 million people. Scoliosis is diagnosed when the spine curves more than 10 degrees, confirmed by an x-ray.

Most scoliosis in children is idiopathic - cause unknown. Current thinking is the origin could be one of the following:

  • Muscle imbalance
  • Unequal bone growth
  • Injury
  • Birth defect (other symptoms also present)

There are other medical and disease-related causes for scoliosis. It is NOT genetic, it is NOT contagious. 


Scoliosis is graded

Mild - 10 to 25 degrees of lateral curve. There is a 23% chance of progression of the curve.

Moderate - 26 to 40 degrees. There is a 60% chance of progression of the curve.

Severe - 41 degrees and above. There is a 90% chance of progression of the curve.

Scoliosis usually creates a 'compensatory curve' causing an "S" shape to the spine.


Scoliosis Is Not Just For Kids

It is estimated approximately 20% of all adults have undiagnosed scoliosis. That number jumps to an astonishing 66% in people over 60. Almost 200 million!  

If you weren't diagnosed with scoliosis as a child, can you get it as an adult? The answer is YES. Most adult scoliosis is ACQUIRED.


An Xray of a back that has scoliosis.

What Does 'Acquired Scoliosis' Mean?

Years of poor posture habits, an accumulation of several minor injuries, possibly one significant injury, a herniated disc, arthritis, osteoporosis, bad knees, feet, or hips can cause the spine to shift from plumb to crooked.

Without intervention, scoliosis ALMOST ALWAYS progresses. Gravity is partly to blame. Sometimes pain is not present. I have seen many x-rays of SEVERE lumbar scoliosis with no dominant pain complaint.

When the angle of the curve is greater than 40%, it's time for a surgical consultation. Forty degrees is the tipping point where the spine begins to impinge on organs (heart, lungs, liver, stomach) at which point it can become life threatening.


Most acquired scoliosis is PREVENTABLE.

HOW TO TELL IF YOU HAVE SCOLIOSIS

 

  • The first give away is one shoulder is lower than the other. Look in the mirror.
  • One arm seems longer than the other.
  • One leg seems longer than the other. Easily seen if one pant leg is longer than the other.
  • One hip is higher than the other.
  • When standing, one leg is out to the side, rather than standing squarely on both.
Photo of a woman with a back that has scoliosis

IS THERE A CURE FOR SCOLIOSIS?

Yes and No.


Scoliosis in CHILDREN

MILD SCOLIOSIS - observe to check for progression. Exercise, as in ballet for girls, martial arts for boys. PurePosture can be very helpful, overseen by a physician.

MODERATE SCOLIOSIS - bracing and exercise. Careful monitoring of any signs of progression.

SEVERE SCOLIOSIS - bracing and surgical consideration. Recently two new therapies have become more recognized in treatment. They are The Clear Scoliosis Institute and the Schroth Method Exercises for Scoliosis. Both hold great promise for adolescent scoliosis.


Scoliosis in ADULTS

Scoliosis involves more than one vertebra.

When a vertebra shifts to one side, it also rotates AND tips. Adjacent vertebra are always affected and must compensate. Usually there is an equal and opposite effect on another section of the spine. This compensatory action is the body's attempt to regain balance in the spine.

With time and constant gravity applying downward pressure to the spine, the scoliosis curve increases. Joints and bones become misshapen, spinal ligaments shorten causing increased pressure on the discs. Eventually, the spine is crooked.

This plays a BIG role in why people get shorter as they age.

THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ACTION TO TAKE IF YOU HAVE SCOLIOSIS IS TO KEEP YOUR SPINE FLEXIBLE


Before and after of a back with scoliosis.

Because most scoliosis in adults is acquired, changing some daily activities can significantly improve adult onset scoliosis. In many cases a reversal can be achieved.

Lengthening the spine helps to straighten out the curve. Increasing spinal flexibility is key to effectively elongating the spine. Yoga, pilates, dynamic body movement like dancing and swimming all contribute to spinal flexibility and lengthening. Chiropractic care is very helpful.

Weight lifting, running, cycling DO NOT increase spinal flexibility.

Practicing good posture while standing, sitting, walking - all the time - helps to slow the progression. Stretching your back in the opposite direction of the curve also helps. Here is a quick guide to help your posture.


SCOLIOSIS AND OSTEOPOROSIS, A DOUBLE PROBLEM

Old woman with a hunched over back.

GRAVITY, DECREASING MUSCLE TONE, AND LACK OF SPINAL FLEXIBILITY, INCREASES SCOLIOSIS AS WE AGE.

 

Osteoporosis is when older bone cells die off at a faster rate than new ones are being produced. The bones become porous and bone structure is weakened.

If more weight is put on one side of the bone, the bone is subject to fracture. Add scoliosis to this scenario, the probability of a fracture to the spine is something to worry about.

YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT SCOLIOSIS. THE TIME IS NOW.


PurePosture can help scoliosis.

Using your body weight and gravity, while laying on the unique shape of PurePosture, helps to lengthen spinal ligaments, increase joint mobility adding to increased flexibility of your spine. You stand taller, your spine is elongated.

Once the spine is aligned, muscles can be developed to hold the alignment. This stops or slows the progression of scoliosis. It also allows for improved freedom of motion and healing of the area. Check it out today!


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