Addressing Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis With Chiropractic Care

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Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is the most common form of scoliosis, affecting an estimated 2 to 4 percent of adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18. Not much is known about AIS, so a diagnosis can be pretty scary for both parents and adolescents, especially since there may not be much for doctors to do about the condition. However, there is growing evidence in the scoliosis community that spinal manipulation therapy may be beneficial, so AIS patients might want to consider chiropractic care.

Understanding AIS: A Basic Overview

According to the National Institutes of Health, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis refers to an abnormal curvature of the spine that typically develops during early adolescence. In most children, the spinal column grows mostly straight, with only a slight curve due to right- or left-handedness. However, in AIS patients, there is a significant amount of curvature in the spine — it can take on an elongated “S” or “C” shape. Depending on the case, the bones of the spine may also be twisted or rotated.

So far, scientists have yet to determine a single cause of AIS. Although there is some evidence that AIS is linked to genetics, only 30 percent of patients have a family history of AIS. As a result AIS often takes both kids and parents by surprise. The child may have been growing normally, and then suddenly, usually during a growth spurt, a parent or teacher notices the spinal abnormality.

The appearance of a twisted or curved spine is the most common symptom of AIS. AIS can also cause low back pain, and in severe cases, it can even affect heart and lung function. If the spinal curvature is greater than 30 or 35 degrees, patients can expect that the scoliosis will continue into adulthood, and patients are much more likely to experience pain, breathing difficulties, and cardiovascular problems as the condition progresses in later life.

What To Do About AIS

There are a variety of management options for patients with AIS. In severe cases, where the curvature is between 40 and 45 degrees, surgery may be recommended. However, the traditional route is for families to choose between observation — that is, watching to make sure that the condition doesn’t get worse — and bracing. However, observation can make families nervous about not doing anything, and it is not ideal for patients dealing with low back pain. For middle and high school students, wearing a brace can also be uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Recently, anecdotal evidence has suggested that spinal manipulation therapy may help treat the symptoms of AIS. Although the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) cautions that there is not yet scientific evidence to back up these claims, research efforts are currently underway. Moreover, even if spinal manipulation therapy is not found to prevent curvature progression, it can still have a variety of physical and mental health benefits for patients with AIS. According to the SRS, spinal manipulation therapy can help increase core strength and reduce symptoms of AIS, such as low back pain and limited range of motion. That can help relieve stress in adolescents having to deal with AIS alongside the usual challenges of being a teenager.


If your child has been diagnosed with AIS, it might be worth giving spinal manipulation therapy a try. Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness offers spinal manipulation therapy for children of all ages, as well as adults. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

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