Scoliosis – What is it and how can Osteopathy help?
Try saying “S shape structural scoliosis” 10 times fast – and then read on to find out what any of that actually means.
Curves in all the right places naturally, your spine is not straight – but you should generally have 3 curves:
- Cervical lordosis (neck)
- Thoracic kyphosis (mid back)
- Lumbar lordosis (low back)
A lordosis will curve toward the front of your body and a kyphosis will curve out toward the back of your body. The shape of your vertebrae create these curves which allows for movement and appropriate loading through the spine – so that you don’t crumble in a heap.
What is scoliosis?
A curve towards the side of your body, side-bending and rotating. From the back, the spine will appear to form a C or S shape. This can happen in two ways:
1. Structural changes – bones of the spine change shape to alter the overall shape of the spine, or
2. Functional changes – posture and movement altering bony positioning
Functional scoliosis is relatively insidious as the bones of the spine remain unchanged. Structural scoliosis will have a larger overall effect on the body as the movements allowed by the spine depend upon the shape of the bones. Large scoliosis curves will also have an effect on the positioning of connecting structures to alter the ribcage, pelvis and shoulders. This can make daily activities feel painful as the body must move in ways contrary to the shape of the spine.
How does structural scoliosis happen?
The cause of scoliosis is unknown, although recent evidence has implied a genetic link; this makes preventing the condition near impossible (or a challenge, you brave optimist). We know that:
- it tends to develop prior to adolescence
- it can go undetected during pivotal developmental stages
- bracing, manual therapy and surgical intervention can improve the curves during early stages
Once bones have stopped growing in adulthood, correcting a scoliosis curve is unachievable with manual therapy and bracing alone.
Why do manual therapy such as Osteopathy?
Correcting the shape of a scoliosis with manual therapy is an unrealistic goal. However manual therapy (such as Osteopathy and Myotherapy) can improve function of the spine and treat the source of pain. Gentle joint articulation and soft tissue techniques help to increase joint movement and decrease stiffness and muscular tension. In changing the goal of treatment, the curve is still there, but it is easier to live with.