Many children and adolescents grapple with the spinal curve that results from scoliosis. This deformity of the spine usually develops in the growing stages between 10 and 15 years. Some cases tend to be detected much later when the spinal curvature is more prominent. In its mildest form, scoliosis may only affect physical appearance. But moderate to severe cases may have other implications.
In someone with scoliosis, the spine can take on a “C” or “S” shape instead of being straight when you look from behind. They may have uneven shoulders and may seem to be leaning to one side. The hip or shoulder may also stick out. Some people with this condition, mostly adults, also experience back pain. Birth defects, infections, injuries, abnormal growth or diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid disease, or neuromuscular diseases can lead to scoliosis but in most cases, the cause may be unknown (idiopathic scoliosis).
If you notice signs of scoliosis in your child, you need to see a doctor immediately. If left untreated, the spinal curve might worsen as the child grows, aggravating the deformity, affecting mobility, and causing pain. Even with mild cases that require no treatment immediately, doctors will choose to monitor the condition regularly. Severe, untreated cases may also lead to numbness and tingling in the legs, back pain, fatigue, breathing problems, and heart problems. While surgery may be considered as a last resort, some natural and alternative remedial steps can also be taken to tackle scoliosis.1 2 3
1. Wear A Brace
In growing children, the spinal curve may increase as the body develops. In children aged 15 or above, however, if the curve is 30–40 degrees (small to medium), it may not grow any further. Larger curves over 40–50 degrees might still keep growing, though at a very slow pace (about a degree every year).4
For children with a moderate curve who are still growing, wearing a brace can help keep the curve from worsening. Braces are fitted for each individual and your doctor will prescribe the number of hours that it needs to be worn for.5
2. Try Chiropractic Treatment
Chiropractic treatment relies mainly on the manipulation of the body structure, especially the spine, to tackle health issues. Research indicates that it may help people with scoliosis. One small study found that using chiropractic techniques thrice a week for 4 weeks in elementary school children resulted in a reduction in the Cobb angle, a measure of the degree of curvature of the spine.6
3. Use Biofeedback
Biofeedback is a process that measures your bodily functions and gives you feedback on them so that you can exert better control over them. One study fitted adolescents with progressing spinal curves with a device that sounded an alarm for poor posture. This was found to be effective at controlling curvature as the researchers observed a 69% curve control rate.7
id="4-practice-therapeutic-exercises">4. Practice Therapeutic Exercises
According to research, exercises can reduce the progression of scoliosis and improve the Cobb angle, though these effects are mostly seen during the growing stages. Studies have also shown that exercises can reduce brace prescription. Exercises can improve mobility, strength, and balance. An exercise program for scoliosis will typically focus on posture and core strengthening and recovery of trunk alignment.8 Here are some exercises that you can try at home. You will, however, need to consult your doctor before starting any home exercise program.
Lie down on your back with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Now lift your legs off the ground one at a time such that your hips and knees are bent at right angles. Push against your knees with your hands while exerting force in the opposite direction with your knees. This engages your abdominal muscles. Remember to keep your arms straight. Hold this position for 3 deep breaths. Repeat 10 times per set and do a couple of sets in a day.
5. Practice Yoga
The National Scoliosis Foundation recommends yoga for scoliosis, endorsing its role in lengthening and strengthening the muscles that support the spine. This helps ease pain and tightness, improve posture, and offset the spinal curvature.10 In fact, one study showed how a single yoga pose could help people with scoliosis. The participants performed the side plank pose taught in classical Iyengar style, with a slight modification where they elevated their ribs, for about 6 months. It was found that this improved the Cobb angle of the primary scoliotic curve by 32%.11 Other asanas like cat/cow pose, child’s pose, triangle pose, and warrior pose can also help reduce discomfort and align your spine better.12 Be sure to consult your doctor and train with an experienced yoga practitioner initially. Your guide will be able to select the right poses (some poses like backbends may be detrimental) and modify poses so they work better for you.
6. Try Acupuncture
The practice of acupuncture is based on traditional Chinese wisdom that a blockage or imbalance in the flow of the life force known as Qi is responsible for disease. The balance is sought to be restored by stimulating certain specific points called acupoints in the body. Some research indicates that acupuncture can help with scoliosis too. One case study of a patient with degenerative scoliosis who was treated thrice a week for 6 weeks found that it not only decreased backache but also reduced the Cobb angle by 10 degrees.13 If you are considering acupuncture, be sure to consult an experienced practitioner with sound credentials.
id="7-try-massage-therapy">7. Try Massage Therapy
Research indicates that massage can be used effectively for tackling back pain.14 One case study that looked at an 18-year-old with scoliosis found that a massage therapy technique known as myofascial release not only improved pain, but also posture, trunk rotation, pulmonary function, and quality of life. This massage focuses on myofascial tissues which support, connect, and wrap your muscles. Stretching and concentrated manual pressure are typically used during myofascial release.15 Using an oil with pain-relieving properties such as aromatic ginger oil during the massage can improve the effectiveness of the therapy in easing pain.16
8. Have Fish Oil To Ease Pain
Fish oil may work as a natural alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which are commonly taken to deal with scoliosis back pain. Fish oil has omega 3 fatty acids which give it anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have found omega 3 fatty acids to be comparable to the common NSAID ibuprofen in easing pain. In fact, according to one particular study, 59% of people with neck or back pain who were treated with omega 3 fatty acids were able to discontinue the NSAID prescribed to them for easing pain. Fatty fish like sardine, salmon, tuna, and mackerel naturally contain omega 3 fatty acids.17 18
|↑2||Scoliosis. National Health Service.|
|↑3||Scoliosis. The University Of Utah.|
|↑4||What happens if scoliosis is not treated?. About Kids Health.|
|↑5|| Scoliosis in Children and Adolescents.
|↑6||Byun, Sunghak, and Dongwook Han. “The effect of chiropractic techniques on the Cobb angle in idiopathic scoliosis arising in adolescence.” Journal of physical therapy science 28, no. 4 (2016): 1106-1110.|
|↑7||Wong, M. S., A. F. T. Mak, K. D. K. Luk, J. H. Evans, and B. Brown. “Effectiveness of audio‐biofeedback in postural training for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis patients.” Prosthetics and orthotics international 25, no. 1 (2001): 60-70.|
|↑8||Fusco, C., F. Zaina, S. Atanasio, M. Romano, A. Negrini, and S. Negrini. “Physical exercises in the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: an updated systematic review.” Physiotherapy theory and practice 27, no. 1 (2011): 80-114.|
|↑9||Scoliosis Exercises. CHOC Children’s.|
|↑10||Yoga. National Scoliosis Foundation.|
|↑11||Fishman, Loren M., Erik J. Groessl, and Karen J. Sherman. “Serial case reporting yoga for idiopathic and degenerative scoliosis.” Global advances in health and medicine 3, no. 5 (2014): 16-21.|
|↑12||Yoga Sequence for Scoliosis.
|↑13||Liu, Chun-Ting, Kao-Chang Chen, and Elley HH Chiu. “Adult degenerative scoliosis treated by acupuncture.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 15, no. 8 (2009): 935-937.|
|↑14||Cherkin, Daniel C., Karen J. Sherman, Richard A. Deyo, and Paul G. Shekelle. “A review of the evidence for the effectiveness, safety, and cost of acupuncture, massage therapy, and spinal manipulation for back pain.” Annals of internal medicine 138, no. 11 (2003): 898-906.|
|↑15||LeBauer, Aaron, Robert Brtalik, and Katherine Stowe. “The effect of myofascial release (MFR) on an adult with idiopathic scoliosis.” Journal of bodywork and movement therapies 12, no. 4 (2008): 356-363.|
|↑16||Sritoomma, Netchanok, Wendy Moyle, Marie Cooke, and Siobhan O’Dwyer. “The effectiveness of Swedish massage with aromatic ginger oil in treating chronic low back pain in older adults: a randomized controlled trial.” Complementary therapies in medicine 22, no. 1 (2014): 26-33.|
|↑17||Omega-3 Fatty Acids. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑18||Maroon, Joseph Charles, and Jeffrey W. Bost. “ω-3 Fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain.” Surgical Neurology 65, no. 4 (2006): 326-331.|