Throughout adolescence, most of us recall our mother's marching orders to "Stand up straight!" Providentially, standing up straight wasn't a problem for many: simply retract the shoulders, contract the abdominals, allow the head to come back, and lift the torso out of the pelvis. Yet for others, the act of standing upright wasn't, and still isn't, quite that easy - one hip may be higher than the other, one side of the rib cage lower - whatever the case, all the pelvic tucking, shoulder retracting and chin-raising are usually in vain. For these individuals, "straightening up" is a trying experience, like they are fighting their bodies just to get through the day.
The reality is some people really are fighting their bodies and those bodies have acquired an unusual amount of lateral "curvature" where they should be "straight." Sooner or later, most of these individuals end up in the office of their family doctor, chiropractor or massage therapist hoping to find ways to alleviate the postural strain and pain they are feeling. Following a measurement of their condition, they may be introduced to the meaning of the word "scoliosis."
When the general population hears the word scoliosis, the visualization of a hump-backed, crooked and painful body usually comes to mind. It is, indeed, a frightening experience when parents receive a call from the school nurse informing them that a scoliotic "deformity" has been exposed during their child's routine screening exam. Ten in every two hundred children develop scoliosis among the ages of 10 and 15. While boys and girls seem equally affected, the curvatures in females are three to five times more likely to progress into more pronounced aberrant postural patterns.1 As scoliosis is frequently asymptomatic, it is regularly overlooked, and the parent may only notice that the child's clothing no longer fits properly.
Fortunately, scoliosis takes many types and need not always fall into a frightful medical category. Although it can be a very complex musculoskeletal condition, successful treatment alternatives are available if the disorder is discovered in time. This article offers an overview of scoliotic classifications, types of curvatures, accompanying symptoms, and hands-on examples for adjusting the dysfunction.
Is it Fixable or Is it Fixed?
Scoliosis may be classified in a multitude of ways: by its reversibility, severity, etiology, or type and location. A primary consideration for bodyworkers is the type of scoliosis... Is it "structural" or "functional?" Spinal curves that improve in forward-bending, sidebending and specific rotational movements are generally referred to as "functional" or "secondary" scoliotic curves. If the curve does not straighten during any of these maneuvers, it is considered a "structural," "fixed" or "primary" scoliosis. Numerous functional curves remain in the body too long and may become fixed as the brain valiantly attempts to compensate for asymmetry by altering length-tension balance in associated soft tissues, i.e., muscle guarding. Prolonged postural compensations in the end decompensate in adjacent structures. Then the client begins experiencing increased symptoms, signs and disease.
Spinal Curves - Types and Motion
Abnormal spinal curves can come about in more than one of the body's planes. Names familiar to bodyworkers like hyperkyphosis and hyperlordosis describe excessive sagittal plane curvatures, whereas horizontal (transverse plane) compensations are commonly referred to as rotations or torsions. Although scoliotic (side-to-side) curves are mostly considered coronal plane deviations, sagittal and coronal influences often occur in tandem. An excellent example is the frequently seen humped-back (lateral and posterior) scoliokyphotic deformity.
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