By Dr. Jessica M Pesce, DC, CPEP®
Scoliosis is an abnormal lateral curvature of the spinal column. It affects approximately 2 percent of the population. The likelihood of one having scoliosis is about 20% higher when another family member has been diagnosed with scoliosis. The prevention and treatment of those with scoliosis is personally very important to me. Both my mother and father have scoliosis, and at the age of fourteen I was personally diagnosed with scoliosis.
Traditionally there has only been three treatment options for people diagnosed with scoliosis: observation, bracing, or surgery. The Cobb angle is the method of measurement used to assess the degree of a scoliosis. Observation has typically been recommended for those with a Cobb angle between 10-25 degrees, bracing is recommended when curvatures reach between 25-30 degrees, and surgery is recommended for those with a curve over 40 degrees.
Inherently there is a problem with the traditional management of scoliosis. Scoliosis is a progressive skeletal disorder. The altered structure found in individuals with scoliosis causes unfavorable biomechanics, which will asymmetrically load the spinal vertebrae and soft tissue discs. The abnormal stresses placed on the spine and discs will cause earlier and more advanced degeneration. This is a cyclic process and all efforts should be to slow and prevent the curve progression and degeneration, rather than simple observation. Thankfully today more therapeutic options are being studied and made available for those with scoliosis.
3 D’s of Posture Degeneration
Specific chiropractic adjustments combined with therapeutic exercises has shown to be effective in the management of patients with scoliosis. Daily postural exercises help to balance and align the body and restore proper motion. Dr. Steven Weiniger tells us that there are 3 D’s of postural degeneration: DNA, Damage from injuries, and Daily Life Habits.(1)
While we cannot change our DNA, we can work to heal previous injuries and have healthier daily life habits by performing StrongPosture® exercises daily. Your posture is how you balance your body. One’s perception of where their body is in space, is not always accurate. Being conscious of our posture is the beginning of strengthening our posture.(2)
“Posture is HOW you balance your body.” ~2nd Posture Principle, Dr. Steven Weiniger
Scoliosis & Muscle Imbalance
Someone with scoliosis will develop muscle imbalances as a result of their spinal curvature. When your body is balanced, your muscles no longer have to compete against each other and so it takes less energy to complete simple tasks and will ultimately cause less fatigue. Our body learns and creates procedural memories on how to perform tasks, just like we learn to ride a bike. People adapt making changes in posture and motion to avoid pain or discomfort. These adaptations can lead to more advanced degeneration.(3)
The spine works much like children’s building blocks. When the building blocks are balanced the stack is stable, but when a block is out of place the stack will begin to wobble. As a third or fourth block is added to the stack, it will continue to wobble, because the stack is only as stable as the blocks below. (1) StrongPosture® short-duration, motor control exercise helps to stabilize the pelvis, which is the foundation of our spine. A strong foundation means a healthier spine.
A recent study found motor control “core stabilization training in addition to traditional exercises was more effective than traditional exercises alone in the correction of vertebral rotation and reduction of pain in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis”. (4)
Posture Exercise & Scoliosis
By performing daily posture exercises patients will benefit from an overall improvement in health. Poor posture has been shown to negatively affect ones quality of life, as well as shorten ones lifespan. One commonly seen comorbidity of scoliosis is difficulty breathing. This happens for two reasons, one is because the lungs are unable to properly inflate due to the structural confinement that is created by the biomechanical alterations seen with scoliosis. The other reason is because scoliosis creates an interruption in the nervous system, and if the lungs are not receiving proper innervation they are unable to work optimally. Every living thing needs oxygen. When one is unable to take a deep breath in, the oxygen available to the body is limited, and so the overall health of the body is negatively impacted. Therefore by working with individuals with scoliosis not only will their musculoskeletal system be stronger and healthier, but their entire body will perform more optimally.
I have personally seen this to be true, and it was the catalyst in me becoming a chiropractic physician and a certified posture exercise professional (CPEP). Prior to my own diagnosis of scoliosis I suffered from asthma and allergies that required the daily use of an inhaler, medications, and allergy shots. Despite the medical management I was receiving I often missed school and felt ill. I was astonished when only a few weeks into my chiropractic treatment I was not using my inhaler as frequently, and eventually I was able to discontinue all my medications. I now understand that because of the postural corrections I received I am able to live a better quality of life.
Research performed by Mark W. Morningstar, DC showed that 28 patients who underwent a 6 month course of exercise based chiropractic treatment all had improvements in their Cobb angle measurements, levels of pain, disability ratings, and vital lung capacity. These results were found to remain stable in their 24 month follow up examinations. (5) I am passionate about sharing the same kind of success with others who have been diagnosed with scoliosis. Once patients are properly trained, using the precise framework of StrongPosture® exercises they are able to perform and benefit from these exercises for the rest of their lives.
- Stand Taller Live Longer, Steven Weiniger, DC, BodyZone Press, (2008)
- 5 Principles of Posture, Weiniger, S. BodyZone.com, 2000
- Posture Rehab Protocol Training Manual, Steven Weiniger, DC, BodyZone Press, (2000, 2016)
- The effectiveness of core stabilization exercise in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: A randomized controlled trial. Prosthet Orthot Int, 41(3), 303-310, Gür, G., Ayhan, C., & Yakut, Y. (2017)
- Chiropractic Treatments for Idiopathic Scoliosis, Mark W. Morningstar, DC, PhD (2017)