Scoliosis

By Dr. Jason Slagel | August 1st, 2022

Today we are talking about scoliosis.  Scoliosis is a weird one because I have a lot of people come into my office that say that they have been told they have scoliosis…and don’t. They have a slight curve in their spine.  You must have over 15 degrees of curve in your spine for it to be called scoliosis.  It’s kind of like body temperature.  Body temp should be 98.6 but if you have a body temp of 98.7 you don’t say you have a fever.  Even though it’s technically above normal, you don’t count it as a fever until it gets a little higher.  So, with scoliosis it must be over 15 degrees of curve in the spine.

Now, it’s interesting to me because a lot of doctors don’t even know what causes scoliosis if you ask them. In the research it’s pretty clearly pointing towards something in the central nervous system.  So, follow me here: the main reason for scoliosis existing is from what’s called brain stem pressure.  Here’s how it happens.  If you have an accident or injury that damages the connective tissues in the neck, then the head and neck can shift out of place.  For people with scoliosis this accident or injury typically happens from birth trauma. This shift of the top of the neck is where brain stem pressure happens.  The top bone in the neck is called the atlas.  It’s called the atlas because it holds up your head kind of like Atlas holds up the world. So that’s cute.  But anyways, the atlas, that top bone, is the most mobile joint in the entire spine.  If you have birth trauma that shifts the head and neck out of place and specifically shifts the atlas out of place, that can put pressure on one side of the brain stem since the atlas surrounds the brain stem.  Or it can put compression on one side of the brain stem.  When the brain stem is compressed on one side that’s what we call brain stem pressure.  Now, many people with brain stem pressure can see that their ears are no longer level when they try to hold their head straight.  That’s an indication that your head is shifted out of position. 

The brain stem controls the automatic functions of the body.  Things like breathing, heart rate, hormone levels, blood pressure, digestion, sleep patterns. So, when you put pressure on one side of the brain stem, you’re potentially impacting a lot of things.  Well one of the things controlled by the brain stem is muscle tone from side to side in the body.  If we put pressure on one side of the brain stem, in one side of your body the muscles are squeezing more than the other side. Imagine an accordion squeezed to one side. So, people with brain stem pressure will see not only are their ears unlevel, but their shoulders are unlevel, their hips are unlevel and when they lay down their legs are uneven.  It’s a whole posture pattern that’s created by brain stem pressure. 

Now people with scoliosis that have this brain stem pressure since birth, what this means is that the strain was on the body their entire childhood.  While their bones were forming throughout childhood, and as growth spurts were happening, and as bones were calcifying, and in puberty as growth plates were closing, and all these things, there was this strain on the spine.  These abnormal stresses on the spine reshape the bones to fit that posture pattern in an exaggerated way.  So instead of a normal, moderate posture pattern that other people with brain stem pressure have from like a car crash or something, people with scoliosis have an exaggerated form.  And this results in a curve over 15 degrees, which is what we call scoliosis.  Other people have curvatures in their spine, but it’s just the strain on their spine and it’s not actually scoliosis. 

So, if the curves are bigger than 15 degrees, we call it scoliosis.  Now, this can cause significant health issues involving obviously, back pain, neck pain, headaches, difficulty breathing, sciatica, a lot of other things that go along with this brain stem pressure.  Here at Structural Spinal Care, we correct brain stem pressure.  That’s what we do.  That’s our specialty.  So, we correct the underlying cause to scoliosis.  Now we don’t necessarily treat scoliosis because we’re not trying to straighten up curves, what we’re trying to do is get rid of the reason for the strain that caused those curves in the first place.  How do we do this? We take extremely precise x-rays and measure that shift of the head and neck. That atlas that we talked about?  We measure that down to 1/100th of a degree from the front, side and top so we can see it from all 3 dimensions.  Based on those measurements we can calculate how to correct it. And this is without any of the twisting, cracking, and popping that a traditional chiropractor would do.  Now once the head and neck are back to their proper positions, we can get the pelvis to come back to center, we can get the hips to level out, we get the leg length to even out, we get the upper body to stand straight again and get everything as balanced as it’s going to be. 

Now remember that by this point in someone’s life the bones have reshaped and are permanently deformed.  So those curves will never go back to perfectly straight, but that extra strain on the spine that caused those, that extra strain that’s still there that could potentially be progressing or making it worse…that strain can be removed once the brain stem pressure is removed.  This means that the scoliosis symptoms can improve and the person with scoliosis can actually get better because that strain is gone.  Now this doesn’t mean that they’re going to be perfect because damage has already been done.  It might take them a little while to heal from this.  Typically, in my office I see an improvement anywhere from 5-7 degrees after the first correction once we correct that brain stem pressure. And then the longer that a person stays in that corrected state, in a stable state, the more it heals, and they eventually get to their zero, as far as they are going to heal.  That’s what we want.  We want people stable, in the correct position. 

So that’s a little bit about scoliosis! If you have any questions feel free to email me, or contact me through my website Structuralspinalcare.com

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