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What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine to either the right or the left. While any part of the spine can be affected, it commonly happens in the thoracic spine (mid back) or the lumbar spine (lower back) or a combination of the two. Commonly the spine will bend into either a “C” shape or an “S” shape. There are several types of scoliosis, congenital scoliosis, neuromuscular scoliosis, degenerative scoliosis and idiopathic scoliosis.

Congenital scoliosis is caused by an abnormality that is present at birth. Many cases are mild but as children grow some may become more severe. In many cases if the curve does not get worse then no treatment is necessary. Options for children who show a worsening curvature may include bracing and or surgery.

Neuromuscular scoliosis is brought on as a result of abnormal muscles or nerves and/or neuromuscular condition such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida or muscle dystrophy.

Degenerative scoliosis can be the result of an injury or illness such as back surgery or osteoporosis.

Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common diagnosis. This type has no specific identifiable cause although there is evidence that suggests it may be hereditary.

What are the signs or symptoms of Scoliosis?

There are a number of ways to identify potential scoliosis. Uneven shoulders, one shoulder more prominent than the other, uneven waist or one hip higher than the other. As the curvature of the back gets worse, the spine will begin to rotate as well. This can lead to the ribs sticking out on one side of the body. Severe cases can experience back pain and difficulty breathing.[i]

What is the treatment for Scoliosis?

Treatment largely depends on the individual case. Mild curves generally are monitored to ensure no changes in the curvature, while increasing curvature or severe curvature can require more aggressive treatment. A decision on whether to treat is made on an individual basis but factors that are considered are sex (girls have a higher progression rate than boys), severity of curve, curve pattern (“S” shaped curves tend to worsen more than “C” shape), location of curve (mid back curves then to worsen more than the lower section), and maturity of the individuals bones.

Treatments may include bracing, surgery, while Chiropractic, Massage Therapy, Physiotherapy and a regular exercise program can help in alleviating pain/tightness associated with the condition.

A Physiotherapist who is experienced and specializes in back disorders, such as Bob Jacobsen, can help by providing assessment, intervention and ongoing monitoring of the condition. This can help manage symptoms and allow someone who otherwise may have restrictions in the activities they can perform to be able to participate in those activities. Your physiotherapist can help with creating postural strategies and in positioning supports such as pillows or wedges for improved sleep.

Massage Therapy can help in relieving tight and painful muscles, combined with exercise targeted at stretching the “tight” side and strengthening the “loose” side patients may find relief from some of the symptoms of scoliosis.

Chiropractic care combines soft tissue, exercise and manipulations to restore neutral spine posture. There are studies that have shown Chiropractic treatment to improve spinal posture and relieve symptoms of scoliosis.

Have more questions?

If you have more questions about the treatment or management of scoliosis, contact us and we would be happy to answer your questions.


To your success,

Nanaimo Personal Trainer, Keegan Marshall




Keegan Marshall CPT, CES, MMACS


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