"Take care of your body, it is the only place you have to live"
What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine that affects 4.5% of the general population. Over time these curves may progress and put pressure on organs or cause neurological symptoms. Scoliosis is a systemic condition that has been linked to endocrine, digestive, genetic, and/or postural deficiencies. Most curves begin as functional (only happens when performing a movement) that then moves to structural (curves are present when at rest). These scoliotic curves can be caught as early as 7 or 8 years of age but most schools do not perform these screenings until around puberty (1). School screenings are usually performed by nurses and they do not touch spines every day, like a chiropractor, and have a potential to miss scoliotic curves. Patients with early detection have a better prognosis and a decreased incidence of surgery.
Why is a decreased incidence of surgery a good thing?
A study of hospital charges to 76,741 patients showed the average costs to patients to be $113,3032 (2). Surgery is done by placing metal rods (Harrington Rods) on either side of the spine. The Harrington Rod quality of life study found that post-surgery: 75% of patients reported low back pain, 66% had decreased spinal mobility, and no rib hump improvement (3). It is estimated that around 8,000 people per year who had Harrington Rod surgery in their youth, are classified as legally disabled for life.
The medical model for the treatment for scoliosis is to watch the curve progress, until it reaches a certain number, before bracing it. If the curve continues to grow then surgery is next. Chiropractic aims to catch the curve as early as possible and use non-operative treatment to slow or stop the progression. Patients who are treated non-surgically for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (the most common type of scoliosis) have the same quality of life as the ones who have surgery (4). Scoliosis always progresses, at different rates for each person, without treatment. Scoliosis is screened at no extra cost to the initial exam and we can improve the future for ourselves and our loved ones.
Huang, S-C. (1997). Cut off point of the scoliometer in school screenings. Spine, 22(17), 1985-1989.
Daffner, S.D., Beimesch, C.F., & Wang, J.C. (2012). Geographic and demographic variability of cost and surgical treatment of idiopathic scoliosis. Spine,35(11), 1165-1169.
Gotze, C., Liljenqvist, U.R., Slomka, A., Gotze, H.G., & Steinbeck, J.(2002). Quality of life and back pain: outcome 16.7 years after Harrington instrumentation. Spine (Phila Pa 1976), 27(13),1456–63.
Haefeli, M., Wlfering, A., Kilian, R. Min, K., & Boos, N. (2006) Nonoperative treatment for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Spine, 31(3), 35-366.