By Dr. Stephanie Che
Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis, or AIS, is a structural lateral rotated curvature of the spine that affects between 1-3% of the at-risk population of children, aged between 10 and 16 years old.
Children diagnosed with AIS and their parents are often subject to a frustrating and agonising wait, as conventional therapy prescribes observation to monitor the scoliosis. Only when the curve has progressed past 25 degrees can an orthotic brace sometimes be prescribed. For severe curves of 50 degrees or greater, surgery is usually recommended.
However, we know that even minor degrees of distortion in the spine can cause neurologic and biomechanical consequences.
As such, chiropractors recommend early intervention in children with spinal curvatures, as scoliosis is at an increased risk of deteriorating in young people who are skeletally immature. It is therefore important to recognise early signs of AIS, beginning therapy as soon as is necessary, rather than waiting for it to progressively worsen.
Signs and symptoms that may indicate a child has a scoliosis in their spine include:
– Their shoulders or hips are at uneven height
– There is a visible curving of the spine
– Muscle mass is unevenly developed between the two sides of the spine
– One shoulder blade sticks out and/or forwards.
A child’s spinal development requires fine neuromuscular coordination to maintain balance in the 24 stacked vertebrae. While AIS’ exact cause is not yet known, research suggests a neurological cause, and this information has helped to guide treatment of the condition. Chiropractors, with their specialised skills and knowledge of the spine and its biomechanics are increasingly treating children with scoliosis.
The combination of personalised and specific therapy with exercise has shown positive results in case studies of AIS patients, who report less pain, more range of movement and improvements in the curve progression of their scoliosis. ‘
In a study of 40 children aged 9-15 years old who suffered from mild scoliosis (of less than 20 degrees) receiving Chiropractic therapy over the course of a year, results show an average reduction of 1.4 degrees in spinal curvature. The conclusion of this study is clear – “Chiropractic appears to offer a distinct advantage in the management and monitoring of early stage scoliosis”.
 Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis. Stuart L Weinstein, Lori A Dolan, Jack C Y Cheng, Aina Danielsson, Jose A Morcuende, Lancet 2008; 371: 1527–37
2 Villafañe, Jorge H., Guillermo B. Silva, and Andrea Dughera. “Manipulative and Rehabilitative Therapy as a Treatment of Idiopathic Scoliosis without Psychological Sequelae: A Case Report.” Journal of Chiropractic Medicine 11.2 (2012): 109–114. PMC. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.
3Morningstar, Mark W. “Outcomes for Adult Scoliosis Patients Receiving Chiropractic Rehabilitation: A 24-Month Retrospective Analysis.” Journal of Chiropractic Medicine 10.3 (2011): 179–184. PMC. Web. 13 Jan. 2016.