Scoliosis Treatment: Recent Improvements & Alternative Options
Early Intervention and Neuromuscular Retraining Key for Best Outcomes
Braces, surgery and observation until a curve measures over 20 degrees are the three most common scoliosis treatments, yet none of these actually stabilizes or reduces the condition. Muscle retraining, genetic testing and nutritional support are more recent treatment options that provide measurable, long-term results.
So why are we using it?
Doctors commonly opt to only observe children with early stage scoliosis — curves measuring less than 20 degrees — for at least the first six months. The idea is that doctors can tell if the mild scoliosis is progressive or not after this time. Yet, if the curve reaches 25 degrees, there's a 68 percent chance the scoliosis will continually get worse. The ScoliSMART® doctors know it's best to intervene and start spinal resistance training as soon as scoliosis is detected.
Giving the condition six months to worsen before you take action isn't logical. Our innovative system unlocks the curvature, mobilizes the spinal joints and trains the brain to learn a new spinal position. This retraining program can slow or eliminate curve progression regardless of the stage of scoliosis, but the sooner your child starts it, the more likely it is the curve will never reach 25 degrees.
Improve Scoliosis Detection
Part of the problem with traditional scoliosis treatment is the way scoliosis is detected. Most doctors rely on the Cobb angle, which is a measurement of lateral bending visible on an x-ray. Although researchers agree that scoliosis is a three-dimensional spine deformity, most still use this two-dimensional measurement. Surface topography, 3D posturography, MRIs and spinal ultrasound all provide more relevant information about the scoliosis deformity than the 80-year-old Cobb angle measurement.
Doctors need to analyze your child's posture for a tipped shoulder, a high hip, a forward head posture, a sway back posture or poor alignment from the skull to the pelvis to identify smaller curves. A tool called a Scoliometer also helps us detect small curves. Early detection is especially important if scoliosis runs in your family. The earlier we detect scoliosis, the sooner we can start Early Stage Scoliosis Intervention treatment and work to stop scoliosis progression.
Why Early Scoliosis Intervention is Crucial
Scoliosis creates a twisting of the spine around its axis. This is caused by lateral bending and rotation of spinal movement patterns. Picture a rubber band being twisted. This twisting causes severe torque that makes the existing spinal curve twist and bend even more. We call this self-feeding loop the "coil-down effect." We can often see this spinal deformity in your child's torso or notice a rib hump before the Cobb angle measurement indicates a problem. When treatment begins while the curvature is minimal, we can halt this crankshaft phenomenon and greatly increase the odds of reducing a curve to 10 degrees or less.
Treatment for Early Stage or Mild Scoliosis
Most cases of scoliosis are idiopathic, meaning they have no known cause. Yet the progression of scoliosis is caused by a miscommunication between the brain and the muscles. The brain doesn't realize that your child's posture is out of alignment, so it doesn't send the messages telling the muscles to correct the spinal curvature.
ScoliSMART® training focuses on correcting that neuromuscular miscommunication. Our Auto Response Training creates new muscle memory and coordination that helps the body stabilize. This exercise training lowers the chance that scoliosis will get worse and often reduces the curve to less than 10 degrees. No scoliosis treatment can "fix" the condition 100 percent. Beware if someone tells you they can "cure"scoliosis — there is no cure. The best result is to halt progression and reduce the curve as much as possible.
Thankfully, a genetic test developed in 2009 called ScoliScore™ tells us the probability that your child's scoliosis will progress to 45 degrees or more, which is when surgery is often recommended. This saliva-based DNA test shows the probability for extreme scoliosis progression is less than 1 percent in 85 percent of children. This is good news. It's also good that your child won't be required to have multiple x-rays year after year — a monitoring method accompanied by the danger of radiation exposure.
The Cobb angle measurement is not so important when we use ScoliScore testing. The test allows us to focus on building new muscle memory instead of recommending ineffective treatment like scoliosis braces.
Scoliosis Brace Treatment
Frenchman Ambrose Paré created the first metal scoliosis brace in 1575. Many others have been created since then, but patients tell us they still look and feel terrible. A scoliosis brace usually causes more harm than good. It's typically prescribed if your child's curve measures 25-40 degrees, the measurement of moderate scoliosis. This treatment squeezes the ribcage and the pelvis for up to 23 hours a day in an attempt to force the spine to straighten.
In some cases, it appears the brace is helping in follow-up x-rays. But the condition worsens as soon as the brace is removed. That's because your child's muscles are weakened and joints become terribly stiff when they are not allowed to move. A rib hump, breathing problems and other complications often occur within weeks of using a brace. Read more about the problems with scoliosis braces here.
The low success rates of scoliosis braces combined with the physical and psychological damage they cause make us question why anyone would prescribe them. Admitting traditional scoliosis treatment doesn't work is the first step toward innovative changes. Your child can beat scoliosis, even if his or her curve is 25 degrees or more.
Scoliosis Spinal Fusion Surgery
Spinal fusion surgery for scoliosis also has a long history of complication and failure. The surgery has advanced and yet two thirds of patients have complications. A scoliosis curve isn't life-threatening and people with a curve often live without pain. American Family Physician has stated that "there is no difference in the prevalence of back pain or mortality between patients with untreated adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and the general population."
But many patients experience debilitating pain after surgery. A 2002 study shows that 40 percent of patients were considered severely handicapped after surgery. Surgery straightens the spine at the cost of mobility. Your teenager may look straighter and taller after surgery, but have pain and breathing problems that didn't exist before. Additionally, when two-thirds of the spine is fused, the remaining portion becomes hyper mobile. These areas degenerate much faster and develop issues as your child ages. And yet, doctors are eager to recommend spinal surgery for teenagers younger than 16 who are not done growing.
For more information on why long-term surgery risks may outweigh its benefits, read our page on surgery.
How Nutritional Support Boosts Treatment
European research is connecting scoliosis to low levels of certain hormones and the brain not responding to these hormones. These hormones include leptin, melatonin, calmodulin, serotonin and growth hormones.
Understanding how the brain communicates with itself and parts of the body helps explain this miscommunication. Nerve pathways are like city streets with junctions similar to intersections. Each intersection has a neurotransmitter, like a street light. When the brain sends a message, the neurotransmitter must tell the message to continue through the intersection and go throughout the nervous system. Neurotransmitters in the brain each have different functions, like slowing messages or accelerating them. When even a few neurotransmitters are deficient, the flow of messages is disrupted or too many are transmitted too quickly. Wrecks are the result in the street analogy.
Neurotransmitters are typically made from certain B vitamins and amino acids. We can test your child for neurotransmitter imbalances and restore the body's communication with supplements. For example, many scoliosis patients are deficient in serotonin. Serotonin-controlled nerve pathways are responsible for satiety, happiness and dynamic postural control. Serotonin is also converted into melatonin; and melatonin deficiency is tied to scoliosis.
Your child can take over-the-counter amino acids that the body converts into serotonin, correcting both hormone imbalances. Fixing these imbalances helps your child experience greater, longer-lasting success with muscle memory retraining.
Choosing the Right Scoliosis Treatment for Your Child
Making the right scoliosis treatment decisions is difficult for you and your child — especially if you're not presented with all the options. You deserve to know that scoliosis is not simply physical. Treatment shouldn't be, either.
The Society on Scoliosis Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Treatment (SOSORT) says there are many factors more important than correcting a Cobb angle. These factors should be considered before you make scoliosis treatment decisions:
- Is your child disabled? Can the treatment cause disability?
- Does your child suffer from back pain? Can the treatment cause back pain?
- Does your child have a rib hump? Can the treatment cause one or make it worse?
- How is your child's quality of life now? Will the treatment improve it or worsen it?
- Are your child's breathing functions good now? Does the treatment pose a threat to breathing functions?
- How is your child's psychological well-being? How will it be affected by the treatment?
- Does your child face scoliosis progression in adulthood? How does the treatment address this?
- Will further treatments be required when your child is an adult, regardless of the treatment?
We can help you learn about scoliosis and your treatment options. No matter what you've been told, you deserve a second opinion. We're not going to promise a quick fix or magic potion. We will give you treatment options to improve your child's condition and life — forever. Get help today.
To learn more about our treatment options, click on any of the five buttons that follow.
Our approach to non-invasive scoliosis correction and prevention.
Scoliosis Boot Camp™
See the incredible story of identical twin sisters who beat scoliosis without surgery and without bracing.
Scoliosis Activity Suit
A look at our innovative spinal retraining tool that uses resistance to help reset natural spinal alignment.
Small Curve Camp
Details on our intensive five-day program designed for patients with scoliosis curves less than 25 degrees.
Additional Scoliosis Resources
What is Scoliosis?
A Detailed Summary of Scoliosis
Scoliosis Fusion Surgery
Why Risks May Outweigh Benefits
Why Bracing is Outdated & Ineffective
Target the Causes of Progression
Treating the Condition
Degenerative & Idiopathic Treatments
Causes of Scoliosis
A Look at Brain/Muscle Communication
Information on Treatment Options
How to Stop Further Progression
Vitamins, Diet & Nutritional Supplements
Early Stage Scoliosis
Frequently Asked Questions About Scoliosis