Scoliosis isn’t an uncommon disorder, as anyone familiar with official statistics on the subject can tell you. For instance, the United States Bone & Joint Initiative notes that for every 1,000 U.S. adolescents, there are 2.5 cases of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. The organization also stated that “a 2005 study reported mild to severe adult scoliosis prevalence as high as 68% in a healthy (no known scoliosis or spine surgery) population aged 60 years and older.” So whether you’re younger or older, scoliosis is a risk, and if you’ve received a scoliosis diagnosis, you’ll naturally want to know about non-surgical scoliosis treatments.
In this article, we will cover five of the best non-surgical scoliosis treatments, discuss how to treat the disorder and how to prevent it from progressing, and talk about when surgery might be required.
Non-Surgical Scoliosis Treatments
Before we begin, we want to clarify something: Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice. Before making any medical decisions, you should consult with your doctor. Additionally, scoliosis isn’t a condition that you can simply stop. So if you’re wondering how to fix scoliosis naturally or how to fix scoliosis without surgery, you may want adjust your mindset to think about management rather than curing.
With that being said, one of the most common non-surgical scoliosis treatments is:
Bracing is so common that many people automatically associate it with scoliosis. Scoliosis is defined as a lateral curving of the spine by 10 degrees or more. When the curve is less than 20 or 25 degrees, physicians typically recommend observation and wait to see if the patient’s condition worsens. A curve above 25 degrees, though, will need bracing.
The specific kind of brace used will depend on the recommendation of your doctor. In the United States, most patients use Boston braces. European patients typically use a Cheneau brace or a Rigo brace. It will also depend on the specifics of the patient’s particular spinal curvature and age. Bracing isn’t an effective scoliosis treatment in adults since it only halts spinal curvature when patients are growing. For best results, the patient will need to wear the brace for 18 hours a day
Given that traditional braces are less than comfortable, some practitioners have begun recommending the use of soft braces, which are more comfortable. However, these braces do not have the same weight of clinical data demonstrating their effectiveness.
When infants receive a scoliosis diagnosis, doctors usually resort to a non-surgical treatment called Mehta casting. The child is placed under general anesthesia, intubated, and then casted with fiberglass casts. Generally, these casts must be created afresh every eight weeks. The University of Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Journal states, “Mehta casting is an effective and reliable method to address early onset scoliosis. This technique can be curative for infantile idiopathic curves, and can help delay surgery in children with other forms of early onset scoliosis.”
Schroth Method Therapy
Many seemingly innovative scoliosis treatments fall short of their potential, wasting patients’ time and leading to a worsening of their condition. However, Schroth Method Therapy, a unique form of physical therapy, is one of the alternatives to scoliosis bracing and surgery that can truly help individuals, and is a clinically proven treatment that is effective in some cases. A meta-analysis published in European Journal of Physical & Rehabilitation Medicine concluded, “The overall effect size of the Schroth exercise is high (g=0.724). In addition, Schroth exercise may be more beneficial for scoliosis patients who have a 10 to 30° Cobb’s angle than for those with a greater than 30° Cobb’s angle. Patients should practice the exercise for at least one month to have a better effect. … In sum, the Schroth exercise is a recommended treatment method for scoliosis patients.”
Bodyweight Exercises and Traditional Physical Therapy
Before we begin to discuss scoliosis exercises and scoliosis stretches, we must clarify that scoliosis exercises and physical therapy won’t “cure” your condition. At best, they’re complimentary, helping to alleviate discomfort and facilitate freer movement. While these exercises aren’t magic, consider how efficacious they were for one famous name: Olympian Usain Bolt, who has been called the fastest person in the world. Discussing his scoliosis with ESPN, he said, “When I was younger it wasn’t really a problem. But you grow and it gets worse. My spine’s really curved bad. But if I keep my core and back strong, the scoliosis doesn’t really bother me. So I don’t have to worry about it as long as I work hard. The early part of my career, when we didn’t really know much about it, it really hampered me because I got injured every year.”
If you want to pursue bodyweight exercises, physical therapy, or yoga for scoliosis, please work with a qualified professional. There are certain scoliosis exercises to avoid, and accidentally performing them could worsen your condition or lead to permanent harm.
Diet and Vitamin Supplementation
Multiple studies have shown that adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis have lower levels of vitamin D than the general population. The proverbial jury is still out as to whether or not supplementing with vitamin D actually helps, but it can’t hurt. In addition to taking supplements, you can also get vitamin D through:
- Exposure to the sun
- Egg yolks
What is the Best Way to Treat Scoliosis?
Asking about the best way to treat scoliosis is kind of like asking how to fix scoliosis in adults or children. In other words, it’s the wrong question. Many studies have demonstrated the efficacy of the options mentioned above, such as a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and published in 2013 which documented the benefits of bracing. Others have praised exercises and discussed the efficacy of the Schroth Method. However, whether you’re considering scoliosis treatment without surgery for adults or adolescents, the best way to treat the condition is the method that meshes with your particular body — and that’s something your doctor should help you decide.
How to Prevent Scoliosis from Progressing
In adolescents, scoliosis can develop in a number of different ways, all of which necessitate different treatments. In some cases, doctors will simply observe a patient’s particular case to see if any progression occurs. For spinal curves no greater than 30 degrees, Schroth Method can help, and bracing is always an option to help keep scoliosis from progressing.
Things look a little different for adults, because scoliosis is often the result of a collapsing spinal disc or some kind of degenerative disorder. Exercise and physical therapy may help with some of these situations. Unfortunately, many adult scoliosis cases may end up requiring surgery.
At What Point is Surgery Required to Treat Scoliosis?
No matter whether the scoliosis case is with a youth or someone elderly, surgery is always recommended when the deviation of the spine’s curve is 50 degrees or more. Why? Such a severe shift radically reorients the shape of the rib cage, which can lead to extreme discomfort and even organ damage. Similarly, degenerative spinal disorders or ruptured discs may also benefit from surgical procedures such as spinal fusion.
If you have scoliosis and would like to learn more about non-surgical treatment options, call The Spine Center at (847) 698-9330 and schedule an appointment. Our fellowship-trained physicians pride themselves on patient education, as well as remaining up to date on the latest research and treatment methods. We are happy to discuss any potential issues with you and to perform any necessary diagnostic-imaging tests. Maximize your pain-free functioning by contacting us today!