Scoliosis: Is there Help?
by Dr. Eric Winder
Yes, there is. Over four million people in the United States suffer from this sideways curvature of the spine, and the majority experience chronic pain as a result. However, the pain of scoliosis in both adults and children can be greatly relieved, allowing for enhanced quality of life.
How is this possible? If you have read some of my past articles, then you are likely aware that I focus on the treatment of fascia. This connective tissue contains millions of nerve endings which give us “position sense,” telling our brains where our body parts are located in space. Scoliosis, with its abnormal curve of the spine, is considered an issue of proper position sense, known as proprioception.
While the most common form of this problem, called idiopathic scoliosis, is poorly understood, my clinical experience is that problems with restricted fascia play a significant role in causing this spinal distortion and the pain it causes. Restricted fascia can distort normal proprioception, contributing to the improper alignment found in a scoliotic spine.
An illustrative example is a 78-year-old woman who came somewhat reluctantly to my practice at the urging of a good friend. She had experienced a lifetime of pain from her severe scoliosis that caused a visible deformity to her posture. Her pain had increased considerably in recent months, but she did not want to become dependent on prescription pain relievers which did nothing reduce her pain long-term.
Every patient is unique, but this woman’s treatment regimen was similar to most cases of scoliosis I work with. She received manual therapy to release fascial restriction, along with some gentle stretching and exercises. Over time, her pain was reduced from a 10 out of 10 to an average of three out of 10 which she found greatly improved her quality of life.
A large proportion of scoliosis cases start in childhood or adolescence. Many are found by school nurses in routine screening programs. In some of the mild cases, conventional healthcare is used to simply monitor the curve’s trajectory, making sure it doesn’t worsen, with x-rays taken every six months to track the growth pattern.
If a curve becomes more severe, physical therapy with stretching and exercises might then be utilized, and this approach can be helpful. A brace worn to support the spine can also stop the curve from progressing. In some cases, however, these treatments do not help, and the curve continues to increase. If the scoliosis gets severe enough, an operation to insert supportive metal rods next to the spine will often be recommended.
In my experience, while stretching and specific exercises are important for treatment, addressing the restricted fascia is the most critical method of treating non-surgical scoliosis. For children younger than 16, I have never seen a curve get worse after fascial treatment has been started. In many cases, I have seen children’s curvatures improve by 20 degrees, and in a few mild childhood cases, the scoliosis has been eliminated completely.
While scoliosis in most adults begins in their youth, there are some situations where the curvature develops after adulthood. Sometimes trauma, surgeries or other medical issues can trigger scoliosis to develop. Regardless, adults with scoliosis are even more likely to have spinal pain than children with the same problem. In fact, more than three quarters of adults with this problem experience back pain.
While we have great success relieving adult scoliosis pain at our office, many of these patients come to us because they have exhausted all other options for finding relief and achieving a better quality of life. Successful treatment of scoliosis pain in adults is similar to that in children, and the results are also excellent. The focus is on fascia release, gentle stretching by a therapist, and specific exercises. Although curvature typically cannot be reduced in adults, pain relief is still quite successful.
Recently, a scoliosis patient came to the office with a pain flair after painting ceilings in her house. She had already completed a treatment program for chronic scoliosis pain with considerable success, and was able to regain an active lifestyle, but the stress of overhead reaching had caused new fascial restrictions and back pain. Because she had already undergone thorough treatment, the flair-up was easy to address, and she experienced pain relief with just one session. By continuing her exercises at home, she should be able to maintain that relief.
Most adults can experience enormous relief from pain and discomfort, despite not improving the actual curvature of their scoliosis. Fascial therapies to remove restriction in connective tissue can greatly decrease muscle spasm, joint restriction and painful motion. Some people with scoliosis will need occasional “tune-ups” because their curvatures cause new restrictions to develop. How often these wellness visits are needed depends on the individual case, but once pain relief is achieved, an occasional tune-up is usually all that is needed to maintain the results.
My hope is that more practitioners explore fascial treatment in the care of scoliosis. The benefits are profound for those who have pain from spinal curvature. When people can experience pain relief without medications, it’s a game-changer for their both health and lifestyles.
If you would like to find out more about scoliosis and its successful treatment, please attend an evening program presented by Dr. Winder on November 29, 7–8 p.m. This event is located at 3131 S Tamiami Trail, #102, Sarasota. To register, call 941-957-8390. Dr. Winder has been practicing chiropractic for 20 years, with a focus on fascial treatment and soft tissue therapies for the past 17 years. Dr. Winder’s practice focuses on relieving pain and restoring alignment and motion through soft tissue therapies without forceful manipulation. For more information, visit GentleBay.com.