Scoliosis and Chiropractic
The spinal column is made up of 24 small bones called vertebrae. Seven of these little bones are located in the neck, twelve in the thoracic or middle back, and five in the lower back. They stack up one on top of the other to form a straight line when viewed from front to back. When viewed from the side they form three curves - the neck and lower back lordotic (forward bending) curves, and the mid-back or kyphotic (backward bending) curve.
The average spine is not perfectly straight, almost everyone's curves slightly to the right or left, and sometimes there is a little twisting (rotation) of one or more of the vertebrae. When the spine curves or twists excessively we have a condition called Scoliosis (from the Greek word for "crooked").
What causes Scoliosis?
In 85% to 90% of the cases the cause is unknown. This is called AIS or adult idiopathic Scoliosis The mystery is compounded by the fact that in all Scoliosis sufferers, the spinal parts - the vertebrae, discs, ligaments, tendons, and muscles - all appear to be normal (although as the Scoliosis worsens one or more of these parts may develop abnormalities).
In 10% to 15% of the cases the cause of Scoliosis is tumor; infection; a neuromuscular disease such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy; a birth deformity; or disc problems. Further deepening the mystery of Scoliosis is the fact that no one knows why some minor curves get worse whereas about 90% do not. However, it should be pointed out that it is not true, as commonly thought, that poor posture is a cause of Scoliosis or that women with Scoliosis have more problems carrying babies to term than women who do not have the disease.
Most Lead a Normal Life
Most people with Scoliosis can lead a normal life, never ever knowing that they have a condition. No one dies from Scoliosis But in severe cases Scoliosis sufferers can have impaired respiratory or heart function that may be due to neurological malfunction, but not from mechanical restriction of the rib cage. This is seldom a health problem in Scoliosis 30 degrees or less.
Unknown Controlling Factor
Apparently there is some unknown controlling factor or influence in Scoliosis that causes healthy parts of the body to assume an unusual shape. Some people feel that there may be a hereditary component to the disease since there is a higher incidence among relatives than in the general population. However, studies have not ruled out emotional factors that could as well cause occurrence to run in families. If there is anything that all Scoliosis researchers can agree on, it's that few of them agree.
The Orthodox Medical Approach
Orthodox medical approaches to Scoliosis have come and gone. Wrapping the torso in a plaster cast was replaced in 1945 by the Milwaukee brace, a device that used rods and metal restraints to straighten the spine. Since then several other braces have been developed, and recently electrical stimulation has become popular. However, there has been a wave of negative comments about both bracing and electrical stimulation, with some surgeons going so far as to state that they are of no value whatsoever.
Initially it was hoped that bracing would provide lasting improvement in Scoliosis This optimism arose from studies showing that curves straighten an average of 50% of the time with bracing application. When bracing was followed in the long term, however, a gradual loss of correction was observed, particularly after the patient was weaned from treatment. All the important studies of bracing show similar results. First, there is an approximately 50% improvement in the curve at about 6 months into treatment, after which there is a gradual lessening in the improvement. When use of the brace is discontinued, the average curve is about 15% better than before the bracing; after 5 years the average curve is about the same as it was prior to the bracing. These figures, however, are averaged - some patients are much better after bracing, some much worse; it seems that bracing is effective in controlling some curves but not all.
As mentioned above, electrical stimulation is also controversial. As one researcher has said: "The stimulator would thus appear to be as good as, or as bad as, the brace in treatment of adolescent idiopathic Scoliosis"
To further complicate matters, patients often don't use their brace, and plaster casts have been found to be emotionally scarring.
Robert Mendelson, M.D., has criticized the usual medical approach to Scoliosis on many fronts; "Scoliosis is not serious unless the curvature of the spine is severe, but it is over treated almost as often as it is over diagnosed. If you child is diagnosed as a victim of Scoliosis, don't accept surgical procedures or even bracing without first exploring all of the less radical treatment alternatives.
"Epidemiological studies on Scoliosis are so scanty that we know next to nothing. There are no prospective controlled studies regarding the effects of orthotic treatment on the natural history of idiopathic scoliosis...Is anything actually prevented or is progression merely delayed until a later period in life? The answer is simply not known."
New research on Scoliosis shows the cause or important contributing factor to be a disturbance or defect in the area of the nervous system that controls posture, body balance, and posturing. In one study researchers were able to identify by neurological tests alone nearly 95% of the scoliotics.
The Chiropractic Approach
Chiropractors do not treat disease, Scoliosis included, but they do correct spinal nerve stress - a condition that interferes with proper functioning of the nervous system and the body as a whole. A body without spinal nerve stress is in a better position to resist abnormalities and disease of all kinds, including Scoliosis Recent research suggesting that Scoliosis may be caused by a neurological defect reinforces the validity of the chiropractic approach - the nervous system must remain free of structural damage in order for the body to be healthy.
Scott Banks, D.C., former editor of the journal Spinal Manipulation, states that the role of chiropractic with Scoliosis is supported by a "long history of empirical evidence..."
Fred Barge, D.C., author of a text on Scoliosis, has stated, "Traditional chiropractic concepts and techniques...have shown decent clinical results in Scoliosis control, reduction, and correction."
Clearly, the final word is not in on this mysterious condition. However, the evidence increasingly tells us that every Scoliosis sufferer should be under chiropractic care.
I came into see Dr. Carlomagno after taking a lot of medication for a condition diagnosed as structural scoliosis. I was told that I had a compound-complex curvature that was 21 degrees in the thoracic spine and 16 degrees in the lumbar region. I was having difficulty breathing for the first time in my 42 year old life and was experiencing discomfort with movement to the right. The M.D.'s told me that I would eventually develop degeneration and symptoms from this very self- limiting condition. After a few sessions with Dr. Carlomagno I noticed my respiration was lighter and easier. I also started feeling an increase in my spinal movement which allowed me to once again go back to my normal duties on the job and at home. I have been under care now for over 12 years with Dr. Carlomagno and quite frankly the degeneration that they told me that would progress has only shown minor increase with post X-Rays. I think Chiropractic Care is the greatest and would love to wish the same good fortune to all of you who are thinking of becoming a patient of his. See Dr. Carlomagno (he really cares and has great hands)