Scoliosis is defined as a curvature on x-ray greater than 10 degrees when measured using a Cobb angle. While the spinal curvature characteristic of idiopathic scoliosis is the hallmark symptom of scoliosis, research performed over the last 2 decades has shown that scoliosis is much more than just a spine curvature.
Currently, conventional treatment ONLY focuses on the spine curvature, consisting of observation, bracing, and fusion surgery. This management perspective fails to take into account the other known underlying aspects of the condition. Of these, one of the most heavily studied aspects is the presence of hormone imbalances.
How Hormones Imbalances Contribute to Scoliosis
When we look at the onset of scoliosis, it is not coincidental that the ages of scoliosis onset are those associated with periods of hormone change. For example, scoliosis occurs in 2-3% of children during puberty. The incidence increases over 400% in females age 50 and up, which coincides with the hormonal changes associated with menopause.
Herein lies the core of the issue: these hormone imbalances are already well-documented, yet few physicians are attempting to treat these concurrent symptoms. It is these very symptoms that may be contributing to either the onset of the spine curvature or to its progression over time. In order to understand this connection, let’s take a look at how exactly certain hormones function, and how they interact with the scoliosis curvature.
Estrogen Is a Bone Growth Signaling Hormone
In animal studies, abnormal estrogen utilization during growth is considered an initiating factor in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. This is thought to occur based on the observation that different components of the spine grow or lengthen at different speeds, thus creating disproportionate growth to which the body must adapt. The scoliosis curvature, therefore, is an adaptive response to this abnormal spine growth.
This is substantiated by the fact that postmenopausal women become at risk for osteoporosis due to a natural decline in estrogen production. In the presence of an existing spine curvature, bone density loss can trigger the curve to increase.
Again, this is NOT a new concept. Researchers have known about the link between estrogen and scoliosis for quite some time.
Researchers have even tested this theory and have published evidence of estrogen replacement on the occurrence of spine curvatures. They found that the rotational displacement involved in scoliosis could be reduced by giving women conventional hormone replacement therapy.
Progesterone Is Estrogen’s Sister Hormone
Although progesterone is mainly thought of in relation to its impacts on reproductive health, progesterone has been shown to exert powerful influences and protections on the central nervous system. Progesterone increases the production of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a compound extremely important for the brain’s ability to create muscle memory patterns.
Interestingly, one of the accepted models of scoliosis development is a dysfunction in the areas of the brain responsible for muscle memory development and control. This is often referred to as the Hind-Brain model. Not surprisingly, progesterone levels in pre-pubescent females are statistically different compared to girls without scoliosis.
Research Says Bloods Hormone Testing Is Too Variable
While measuring blood levels of hormones can give a practitioner a partial window into hormone health, it does not provide enough information to know WHERE or HOW to improve a hormone imbalance.
For example, if a given patient has an elevated blood level of progesterone, that could mean a few things. First, it could mean that the patient’s body is not using progesterone correctly, so the blood level is staying elevated. Secondly, it may indicate that the patient is creating progesterone too quickly. It may also be entirely normal, depending upon the age and growth status of the patient.
Blood hormone testing simply does not yield enough actionable information to make it useful clinically.
Salivary Hormone Testing Advantages
Salivary hormone testing offers distinct advantages over conventional blood hormone testing:
- It is an easy, accurate, and noninvasive way of collecting, and can be done in the privacy of one’s own home
- It is proving to be more clinically relevant and beneficial than blood hormone testing
- It measures the amount of hormone your body is physically using, not just the amount circulating
- All of the hormones important in the growth and development of the neuromusculoskeletal system can be tested using a single test
- Salivary hormone results can provide actionable information on how to best treat the individual patient
Multiple studies have shown the salivary hormone testing is safe, reliable, and accurate. In some cases, it is even more accurate than direct blood testing.
Individual Patient Solutions for a Specific Patient Population
Since scoliosis is a comprehensive condition, it should be treated with a comprehensive treatment approach.
Addressing the underlying factors of scoliosis, such as neurotransmitter and/or hormone imbalances, may improve the chances for a successful treatment outcome for a given physical treatment, such as exercises and/or bracing.
Salivary hormone testing for scoliosis patients is readily available, and many doctors already order these tests for other conditions. Talk to you doctor about hormone testing for scoliosis. You may be surprised at the kinds of information you can learn from it!
Natural Treatment to Support Normal Function
When many people hear “hormone testing,” they immediately think of hormone replacement therapy; however, this comprises only a small portion of scoliosis patients who have this testing done. Many nutrient therapies can be designed to restore and support normal intrinsic production of hormones or support the body’s ability to use them efficiently. This is especially important in growing children with hormone imbalances. The goal should be to promote normal production and utilization, not just give them hormones externally, such as birth control pills.
Scoliosis is far more than a spine condition. It consists of a range of intermingled genetic, neurological, and hormonal imbalances that should all be addressed when found. The first step is testing! Consider salivary hormone testing for you or anyone you love who has scoliosis.