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What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a medical term taken from a Greek word meaning curvature. This disease often develops during childhood causing the spine to curve laterally (to the side) to the left or right.

The spine's normal curves occur at the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions. These natural curves position the head over the pelvis and work as shock absorbers to distribute mechanical stress during movement.

The normal spine viewed posteriorly (from behind) appears straight from neck to buttocks. However, a scoliotic spine bends to the left or right resembling the letter S or C. Scoliosis is a complex three-dimensional disease.

To understand this concept consider that in some cases, as the spine curves abnormally, the involved vertebrae are forced to rotate. If rotation occurs at the thoracic level of the spine, vertebral turning impacts the rib cage and may result in rib prominence on the opposite side of the curve. In severe cases, lung and heart function can be compromised. Fortunately, severe cases of scoliosis (above example) are not as prevalent as smaller curves.

In the United States, 3 to 5 children out of 1,000 will develop scoliotic curves large enough to warrant treatment.

Scoliosis is a biomechanical problem deserving a biomechanical treatment, and should be advanced by biomechanical specialists (i.e. chiropractic). 1.

Disturbances of postural equilibrium have been found in idiopathic scoliosis, and several researchers have suggested that this is a result of brain stem disturbances. It has been shown experimentally that stress on posterior nerve roots can also cause spinal deviation. 2.

1. Danbert RJ, Scoliosis: biomechanics and rationale for manipulative treatment . J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1989; 12(1) 38-45 / Medline ID: 89176757

2. Yekutiel M, Robin GC, Yarom R, Proprioceptive function in children with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Spine 1981; 6(6):560-6 / Medline ID: 82153215

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