Most parents freak out when they are told their child has scoliosis. This is could be because chiropractic clinics in Singapore use scare tactics to encourage parents to start their child on treatment.
Before you make a comment to a chiropractic treatment package, here are the facts you need to know.
What is scoliosis?
As human beings, we tend to be afraid of the unknown. Scoliosis sounds scary largely because it is a diagnostic term that most people are not very familiar with.
To clarify, scoliosis refers to a curvature of the spine that is more than 10 degrees (known also as Cobb angle) to give a C-shaped or S-shaped curve. It is one of the most common spine conditions among adolescents.
That’s it! That’s what scoliosis mean – a curvy spine!
Why you shouldn’t be scared of scoliosis
It is true that scoliosis at its very worst can cause premature death. However, this is very very rare.
- Scoliosis (spinal curves of over 10 degrees) affects 1.4 to 2.2% of Singaporean children
- Only 0.1 to 0.3% of individuals experience curvatures that are over 30 degrees
- Only 0.25% of cases of scoliosis will require treatment
The good thing about living in Singapore is that we have implemented school-based scoliosis screening since 1981. This allows for early detection and diagnosis.
If your child has been referred for further investigation, just be mindful that it doesn’t mean he or she has scoliosis. Wait for the x-ray reports and listen to what your doctor has to say first.
In most cases, there is nothing to excessively worry about.
Majority of children who are diagnosed with scoliosis would not need treatment. They would be monitored at regular intervals (four to six months) to make sure that their scoliosis is not worsening.
Remember, scoliosis refers to a curvature of the spine. Very few children will need treatment. Among those who do, conservative treatments such as bracing and exercise therapy are available.
Scoliosis does not mean your child will need surgery.
What is the best treatment for scoliosis?
Again, being diagnosed with scoliosis doesn’t mean you need surgery.
For most patients, this is how your scoliosis treatment protocol will look:
- 10 to 25 degrees: observation, regular follow ups
- 25 to 45 degrees: bracing
- 45 to 50 degrees and above: surgery may be considered
You may be surprised to know that there is “no medical necessity for surgery” for scoliosis. Surgery (e.g. spinal fusion, Harrington implants) is usually performed for cosmetic purposes or to help with psychological health.
When it comes to bracing, the Boston brace is probably the one that most people are familiar with. It is a system of plastic and Velcro straps. Most patients will wear the brace for 16 to 23 hours a day.
The success rates of bracing (defined as progression of less than 6 degrees) have been reported to be as high as 74%.
Prior to the development of the Boston brace, scoliosis patients would use the Milwaukee brace which from the pelvis all the way up to the neck.
Don’t forget mental health
When it comes to bracing, female adolescents are more susceptible to depression.
The duration of the bracing treatment, severity of the condition, patient’s years of age, and even parents’ negative attitudes all have a contributing effect.
What you can do is to help your child understand the treatment and the recovery process he or she is going through. Don’t forget to keep a positive mindset because research shows that it matters!
Can you fix scoliosis? Can a chiropractor fix scoliosis?
There are numerous physiotherapy or corrective exercises programs available for scoliosis. However, it is unclear of these exercises can improve the spine curves associated with scoliosis.
A study conducted in 2019 looking specifically at the Schroth and the Scientific Exercise Approach to Scoliosis published that there was not enough evidence to support either program.
It is possible that exercise may help to improve posture. When it comes to reducing Cobb angle or correct the spinal deformity, bracing is still the best treatment available.
As for chiropractic adjustments, there is also not enough evidence to suggest that spinal manipulation helps with scoliosis.
Refrain from advice that does not work
Now that we have discussed exercise may not actually be effective to help with reducing scoliosis progression, it’s important to not fear-monger your child to the behaviours that may not be helpful.
“See lah, never do your exercises that’s why your curve is getting worse.”
Unhelpful advice puts both yourself and your child in a negative headspace. On top of that, it may also strain the relationship you have with your child.
Likewise, it’s important to know advice such as sitting up straight or standing up straight has not been reported to work.
Furthermore, it might be physically impossible for your child to maintain a “good posture”.
For an experiment, you may want to try sitting in a “good posture” the next time you are using the computer or watching TV. It’s incredibly challenging. Even if you could physically get into the position, to maintain the posture requires bodily awareness and physical endurance that you may not have.
Also, scoliosis is NOT caused by heavy lifting, carrying school bags on one shoulder, sports or physical activities, or a lack of calcium in the diet.
What are the 3 types of scoliosis?
The three main types of scoliosis are:
- Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis: most common form of spinal curvature to affect adolescents. more common in girls than boys
- Congenital Scoliosis: deformity of the spine that is developed during pregnancy and is already present at birth
- Neuromuscular Scoliosis: form of scoliosis due to dysfunction of the brain, spinal cord, and muscular system
What about “adult scoliosis”?
Once you reach adulthood, the curvature of your scoliosis will progress at a very slow rate. According to research, for moderate curve size, the change in angle is about 0.7 degree/year on average over 40 years.
So while it is true that your scoliosis may improve or worsen once you are past puberty, the change is small. If you are seeking treatment for cosmetic or self-image purposes, a “postural correction” program may help.
Anecdotally, exercises such as pilates and yoga have been reported to help.
Scoliosis may be a scary diagnosis. However, you don’t have to be afraid of it.
Remember, very few people with scoliosis require treatment and surgery is almost never a medical necessity.
It’s also important to consider the non-physical aspects of living with scoliosis. What does your child think or feel about the diagnosis? How is he/she coping with the body image implications?
Good health involves physical, mental and social wellbeing as well!
Do you have anymore questions about scoliosis? Drop us a message via the form below.