Scoliosis is derived from a Greek word meaning “curvature.” Affected individuals have an abnormal curvature of the spine. Usually the spine curves slightly to one side, causing one shoulder and hip to be higher than the other. If left untreated, the curve grows more exaggerated, causing unnatural spacing of the ribs. In extreme cases, heart and lung problems can develop.
The condition may begin in infancy, although it is more often first seen in adolescence. Mild cases of scoliosis generally cause no symptoms and are usually discovered during a routine examination by a pediatrician. Sixty to 80 percent of all cases occur in girls. The exact cause of scoliosis is not known, although it is believed that genetics play a role.
Signs and Symptoms
- A sideways curvature of the spine
- Asymmetrical rib cage
- One shoulder that is higher than the other
- One hip that is higher than other
- Back pain
Conventional Medical Treatment
A physician can usually diagnose scoliosis with a physical exam, asking your child to bend forward so he or she can view the spine from behind. An abnormal curvature is easiest to see in this position. X-rays of the spine also may be needed to determine the extent of the curvature. Treatment depends on the severity of the disorder. Mild cases can be treated with strict adherence to a daily exercise plan to improve posture and strengthen the muscle and spine. In moderate to severe cases, the child may need to wear a custom-fitted brace to prevent further curvature. This brace extends from the lower neck to the hips and is designed to apply pressure at the apex of the curve. Usually it is worn during waking hours only, until the spine has been reasonably straightened, a process that generally takes from two to seven years. In very severe cases, surgery may be needed to realign the spine.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
There are two categories of scoliosis: functional and structural functional scoliosis occurs as a result of muscle imbalance; the muscles on one side of the spine are tighter than those on the other side. Patients with this type of scoliosis respond extremely well to conservative chiropractic care. Structural scoliosis, on the other hand, is due to the misalignment of the vertebrae and curvature of the vertebral column. This condition often presents itself at a very early age and generally requires orthopedic intervention and, possibly, surgery.
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Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture can be used to re-channel the flow of energy along the spine, alleviating back pain and making posture problems easier to correct. In most cases, the practitioner will work on points along the bladder, gallbladder, small intestine, and governing vessel meridians, along with auricular points related to the problematic area.
Acupressure As with acupuncture, acupressure may be used to strengthen the back muscles and correct posture to alleviate scoliosis. The practitioner typically focuses on acupressure points along the bladder, gallbladder, and governing vessel meridians.
Chinese Herbal Therapy Depending upon what the herbalist determines to be the root cause of the disorder, he or she may recommend Tu Huo and Loranthes, Rehmannia Six, or Rehmannia Eight herbal combination formulas.
Angelica Du Huo and eucommia also may be prescribed for lower back pain, while additional herbs may be given to treat scoliosis-related headaches, digestive problems, lethargy, and breathing difficulties.