What is Scoliosis? 

 May 9, 2010

By  Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

Specifically, what is “idiopathic” scoliosis.  The most common variety.  My information comes from the book, “Idiopathic” Scoliosis: Cause Prevention Control Reduction Correction & Analysis Through Chiropractic Methods, Vol. III, by F. H. Barge.  I will be using the expanded 2nd edition, 1996.  It is meant to be a text for doctors of chiropractic, but there is a wealth of information that will be useful for non-chiropractors who need help and information on scoliosis.

First some statistics and definitions:

There are four main types of scoliosis as defined on www.spine-health.com.

  • Congenital scoliosis. This is a relatively rare form of congenital malformation of the spine. Patients with congenital scoliosis will often develop scoliotic deformities in their infancy.
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis. This may occur when the spine curves to the side due to weakness of the spinal muscles or neurologic problems. This form of scoliosis is especially common for individuals who cannot walk due to their underlying neuromuscular condition (such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy). This may also be called myopathic scoliosis.
  • Degenerative scoliosis. Scoliosis can also develop later in life, as joints in the spine degenerate and create a bend in the back. This condition is sometimes called adult scoliosis.
  • Idiopathic scoliosis. By far the most common form of scoliosis is idiopathic scoliosis, which most often develops in adolescents and typically progresses during the adolescent growth spurt. Because it most often occurs during adolescence, this condition is sometimes called adolescent scoliosis.

“Idiopathic” means, of unknown origin.  Of course many chiropractors will take issue with that designation, however, technically that is the diagnosis name.  To further differentiate, idiopathic scoliosis can be broken down into 3 categories:

  • From birth to 3 years old – called infantile scoliosis.
  • From 3 to 9 years old – called juvenile scoliosis.
  • From 10 to 18 years old – called adolescent scoliosis.

The adolescent scoliosis is by far most common.  I have seen figures of 500,000 to 600,000 children being affected.  Girls are 7 times more likely than boys to get it.  It is the growth spurt in the early teens during which it often develops.  But the cause is not during that time.  The root of the problem starts in early early spinal development.

So, against most medical opinions I agree with Dr. Barge, that idiopathic scoliosis does have know causes.  On page xix Dr. Barge lists them succinctly.  He spends the rest of the book making the case.

They are as follows:

  1. Lack of proper development of the normal sigmoid (saggital) curve of the human spine, in particular the lumbar lordosis.
  2. Youthful exercise regimens that stress back bends thus reducing (sometimes reversing) the normal thoracic kyphosis; example, gymnastics and ballet.
  3. Vertebral Subluxation
    1. Two Factors
      1. i.     Unilateral Vertebral Inferiority
      2. ii.     Foraminal Encroachment – Neuronal Disturbances
      3. Unilateral Sacral Inferiority
      4. A retarded development or disturbance in the righting reflex, proprioceptive spinal balance mechanisms, commonly caused by vertebral subluxations.

There is some controversy as to causes of scoliosis.   Many opinions.  Chiropractors have never been big on the “wait and see” approach (x-ray every 6 months).  It seems the medical field is starting to brace earlier now.  However you do it, the earlier one starts to treat, the easier it is to help.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

Dr. Stover grew up in Richmond. He has been married to his wife Andrea since 2000 and they make their home in Mechanicsville with their children, Avery and Garnett.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

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