“Can a chiropractor fix scoliosis?” It’s a common refrain from potential patients and skeptics alike. More often than not, we hear this question from people who have had a bad experience with a chiropractor (or two) in the past. Maybe they were promised something that wasn’t delivered. Or maybe their chiropractor was vague in what they were actually promising from the outset.
We absolutely believe that a chiropractor can help you drastically improve your quality of life. But answering the question, “Can a chiropractor fix scoliosis?” requires a bit of a deeper dive.
SETTING EXPECTATIONS AROUND “FIXING” SCOLIOSIS
It’s important to understand from the outset that scoliosis is absolutely treatable. But it isn’t technically “curable.” Scoliosis is sometimes compared to diabetes since it’s a condition that requires ongoing care. It’s important to reframe your thinking from the short term to the long-term here. This is going to be a constant battle that you’ll likely be waging the rest of your life.
That said, if you find the right approach to managing your scoliosis, you can live a wonderful life with few limitations. As long as you stay dedicated to the plan you develop with your doctor, you can drastically improve the quality of your life without bracing or surgery.
Approaches that promise a quick fix for scoliosis unfortunately rarely deliver meaningful results. It’s easy to promise a quick fix, but it’s a lot harder actually to deliver it. Many of these approaches ultimately have little impact on quality of life and, all too often, actually substantially worsen a patient’s situation.
Once you’ve reframed your thinking around what it means to be “fixed” when it comes to treating scoliosis, it’s time to find the right chiropractor for you.
ALL CHIROPRACTORS AREN’T EQUALLY EQUIPPED TO HELP
Scoliosis is a unique condition that requires a unique approach. Unfortunately, many chiropractors try to treat scoliosis as they would any other spinal condition. But with scoliosis, that simply won’t work.
We often say “you can’t be a better clinician than you are a diagnostician.” What we mean is you can’t treat something you can’t effectively diagnose. Most chiropractors aren’t trained or equipped to effectively diagnose issues related to scoliosis. As a result, it’s easy to miss the underlying root causes as well as related issues such as instability of the surrounding ligaments.
Effective diagnosis is a central piece of developing a treatment plan that’s right for you and likely to deliver results. From there, you can move into treatment.
Traditionally, chiropractors look for “stuck” joints in the spine and try to make them “unstuck.” But with scoliosis, joint mobility isn’t the major issue. It’s the location of the joints that’s off. Treating scoliosis with a traditional chiropractic approach can actually put more pressure on the spinal joints, aggravate the surrounding nerves and lead to scoliosis worsening over time.
The joints of the spine need to be repositioned first and foremost. But for any long-term benefit to occur, there’s a whole lot more that needs to accompany this repositioning. Your muscles need to be relaxed. Your brain needs to be retrained to use the muscles and spinal joints differently than it’s become accustomed to. For scoliosis to be effectively treated, all of these things need to be happening together. In practice, this usually means scoliosis massages, stretches, and exercises along with scoliosis-specific adjustments.
WHEN WE ASSESS NEW PATIENTS
We sometimes get asked what it is CLEAR doctors look for when assessing a new patient with scoliosis. How do we know how much we’ll be able to help? It’s a great question, and the answer depends on each patient’s unique case. But here are a few general indicators we always look for.
1. SPINAL RIGIDITY
We look for how rigid the spine is that we’re starting with. This can give us an indication of how much upfront work needs to happen before we can effectively begin repositioning the spine.
But we focus on more than just discs, muscles and bones. We also factor in the nerves in your spine. More specifically, we look at how much tension is being placed on these nerves. Some theories of scoliosis believe it develops to relieve tension being placed on the nerves of the spine. While the jury is still out on nerve tension as a root cause of scoliosis, we believe it’s a major player not only in the shape of the spine but also your quality of life. By alleviating nerve tension, we can help you feel better more quickly as we move forward with treating the shape of your spine.
2. SENSORIMOTOR INTEGRATION
Sensorimotor integration (or “SMI”) is a fancy name for how well your brain is able to communicate with your body. Miscommunication between the brain and body can lead to all sorts of issues, including scoliosis. Fixing scoliosis requires us to retrain the brain to use the body, especially the spine, in ways, it’s grown unaccustomed to.
This assessment often involved a series of balance-related tests to see how well things are aligned from the outset. We repeat these tests throughout a typical treatment to chart improvement. This is a major aspect of treatment that many traditional chiropractors overlook when it comes to effectively treating a patient with scoliosis.
3. DEDICATION OF THE PATIENT
This is perhaps the most significant factor we look at when determining how much progress we’ll be able to make with a new patient that has scoliosis. Your level of commitment will be one of the most important factors in how much improvement you’ll see in your quality of life.
We think of it like visiting the dentist (but hopefully without the sense of dread). Most of the “hard work” when it comes to oral hygiene doesn’t happen at the dentist’s office. It happens in your own home. The same is true when treating your scoliosis. If you stay dedicated to your treatment plan, you’re far more likely to reap the benefits of chiropractic procedures.
HOW TO FIND A CHIROPRACTOR TO FIX YOUR SCOLIOSIS
So can a chiropractor fix scoliosis? As we mentioned above, the first thing to look for is a chiropractor that can effectively diagnose your scoliosis. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions, not only from the outset but throughout your treatment. The better you understand your diagnosis and treatment plan, the better your chances of substantially improving your quality of life.
We’ve prepared a bunch of questions you can ask your doctor that should be an excellent starting point. But if any others come up, definitely don’t hesitate to add them to your list.
If you’re looking for a CLEAR-certified chiropractor in your area, you can do a quick search based on your location. Finally, if you have any questions for us about chiropractic care and scoliosis, please let us know in the comments below. We’d be happy to help.