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Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine, usually in an ‘S’ shape with the convex to the right in the upper back and to the left in the lower back. Most people have slight scoliotic curves as a result of slight structural abnormalities, trauma, or subluxation. These curves will straighten when that person bends forward or from side to side and are called “functional scoliosis”. True or “structural scoliosis” is usually a more dramatic curvature which does not straighten with movements of the spine. This condition affects from 1-5% of children ages 10 to 14 (60-80% of which are female). Scoliosis predisposes individuals to back pain, headache, and other posture-related disorders. In rare, severe cases, the curvature can lead to difficulty breathing or heart problems due to a lack of space from the deformed ribcage. A scoliosis is classified based on an angle measurement taken from a full spine x-ray. Medical practitioners will typically not intervene until a curve has progressed beyond 20 degrees. Medical interventions include bracing and surgery. The effectiveness of bracing is in question and the debate is currently quite vigorous. Wearing a brace affects appearance, creating self-esteem issues and limits ability to participate in activities. Compliance of 23 hours a day tends to be low, and the effectiveness for scoliosis measuring 15-35 degrees has been shown to be minimal at best. Surgery for scoliosis is a highly invasive procedure, which is usually only utilized for very rare cases which progress rapidly and inhibit organ function.

Gonstead Chiropractic and Scoliosis

There is no practitioner more qualified to diagnose scoliosis than a Gonstead chiropractor who evaluates spines and posture daily and utilizes full spine x-ray regularly. A study in the Journal of the American medical Association concluded that in-school scoliosis screenings were ineffective and stressed that parents and health care practitioners should monitor youngsters for the condition. Medical treatment is limited and therefore waits for a scoliosis to progress (if it is going to) to the point of requiring bracing or surgery. The chiropractic approach involves applying treatment during the mild scoliotic phase in an effort to avoid invasive approaches. The Gonstead doctor evaluates for a number of potential causes such as leg length discrepancy, subluxation, upper neck mechanical problems, vertebral malformation, and others. Gonstead adjustments are highly effective in managing the common complaints associated with scoliosis. A study of 1000 young chiropractic patients found an improvement in curvature in 84%. After the age of 25, bone has completely calcified and any correction becomes more difficult, though symptom management is very effective. In those very rare cases of severe scoliosis, the Gonstead doctor will refer out for the next appropriate step in care.

Here’s what Gonstead patients say:

“The scoliosis was diagnosed by doctors with a ‘cure’ of surgery and implanting a steel rod up my back to ‘force’ the bones back into place. I started getting adjustments instead. Slowly, but surely the bones began to move back into place. I now have a pain-free back and flexibility almost as good as new.”

Sharon S.

“My wife was having pain in her back and leg that was preventing her from getting a good night’s sleep. Her x-rays had so many curves the only thing that appeared to be straight was the zipper in her shorts. She has benefited greatly from Gonstead care and we realize the importance to our overall health.”

Jim about wife Arleen

“My scoliosis had led to constant middle back pain. I didn’t even realize this was the cause until I was 23 and diagnosed by a Gonstead chiropractor. I still have curvature in my spine, but no one can tell and the pain is gone!”


Journal of the American medical Association 1999 ;282:1427-32.

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Goldberg DJ, et al., A statistical comparison between natural history of idiopathic scoliosis and brace treatment in skeletally immature adolescent girls. Spine 1993; 18:902-908.

Anrig, Claudia, Plaugher, Gregory, Pediatric Chiropractic. Williams and Wilkins, 1998.

Lantz, CA, et al., The effect of chiropractic full-spine adjustments on adolescent idiopathic scoliosis with curves less than 20 degrees. Proceedings of the Int’l Conf on Spinal Manip. 1996;Oct:30-2.