Symptoms by body part:

Thoracic Spine (Upper-Mid-Back)
Childhood Postural changes
Chronic Pain
elevated shoulder
Lumbar Spine (Lower-Middle-Back)
Muscle Tightness

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis a condition in which the spine curves laterally, away from the midline of the body.  The most common form of scoliosis occurs in adolescence, when the human body is progressing through the stages of development, especially just prior to puberty.  The majority of scoliosis cases are mild and have minor affect on general health, however some forms can be severe and progress rapidly, creating serious health problems.  Many schools have a scoliosis screening process implemented and many parents have been told that their child has scoliosis, but don’t know what that means or what to do.  It is important to begin treatment of scoliosis, along with any abnormal curvature of the spine, during the adolescent years when the joints, muscles and brain itself are more pliable and changes can be made/elements of the condition reversed.

What causes it?

There are a variety of causes of scoliosis ranging from birth defects in the spine (congenital deformation of a vertebra), muscular imbalances, imbalances in brain functioning (especially in the area known as the cerebellum and vestibular system), to spinal restrictions/misalignments.  The brain and especially the cerebellar/vestibular system control muscle tone in our bodies, and proper functioning of these particular areas allows us to maintain the upright posture that defines us as human beings. When there is reduced neuronal firing in these areas of the brain they are not able to control muscle tone and function appropriately and one side of the body becomes a lot stronger than the other, which begins to pull on the spine forcing it to begin to curve laterally.  For example, in a child in which the scoliosis curves to the right in their thoracic spine, the muscles on the left side of the body are too strong, and pull the spine in that direction.

Common Symptoms:

  • Uneven shoulders (may notice that shirts fall more to one side than the other, tank top/bra straps fall often fall off one shoulder, backpack straps need to be different lengths, etc.)
  • Uneven hips (or more prominent on one side than the other)
  • Uneven legs (pant legs may appear longer on one side than the other, legs may seem to be different lengths)
  • One scapula (shoulder blade) appears more prominent than the other
  • Ribs seems more prominent on one side
  • Chronic pain in the neck, mid or lower back
  • Body appears to be leaning to one side
  • Increased muscle tone on one side of the body compared to the other
  • Balance issues
  • Pain with sporting activities
  • Chest pain, or shortness of breath (this occurs with some more severe forms of scoliosis)

How is it treated?

Through careful examination by Maine’s only Chiropractic Neurology team, we are able to determine the cause/s of the abnormal curvature and create a treatment plan designed for the individual patient. If indicated via examination, and to appropriately determine the degree and severity of the curve, x-rays of the entire spine may be ordered.  If so, these will also be used to assist in monitoring progression of the scoliosis if it is determined that your child has it.  Most times through clinical testing we will see very clear-cut signs of imbalance between the right and left halves of the vestibular system, and we can begin to work on this area to increase rates of firing which will improve muscle tone on that side.  It may also be determined by the doctor that co-treatment with an orthopedic specialist may also be necessary (such as when there is a congenital birth defect in the spine, for which surgical intervention may be warranted), in which case our two specialties can work together to address each of the important factors in the condition.

Chiropractic and Functional Neurological treatment of scoliosis includes adjustments to particular areas of the spine to help increase input to that area of the brain affecting muscle tone, and to address any spinal restrictions or misalignments, balance and coordination training, visual/ocular motility exercises to assist in increasing input to the affected areas of the brain, implementation of an exercise program specifically targeted for the muscles that need strengthening and to stretch the muscles that are overactive.