Let’s start by explaining what scoliosis is and how it is diagnosed.
Dr. Chris Serafini: Scoliosis is really pretty simple. It is just a lateral curvature of the spine. We know looking at the spine straight on, it should be nice and straight. Once you deviate from that straight spine depending on what the angle of the scoliosis is that will determine really how severe it is.
How is it diagnosed? Oftentimes you try to use a physical exam. Once it is very severe you’re not really going to pick it up in a physical exam. There’s certain signs that you might be able to see. Maybe there is some indication of scoliosis, but it doesn’t really give you what I would reference the gold standard approach. The gold standard is a standing weight-bearing x-ray. You have to look at the spine under weight, under load in order to really analyze the severity of the scoliosis, and often times it is just not done.
For those who may have undiagnosed scoliosis, what symptoms might they be experiencing that could be signs of scoliosis?
Dr. Chris Serafini: Certainly, pain, decreased range of motion, really postural abnormalities that they can witness and visualize, the head not being centered over the body, one shoulder is higher than the other, one hip is higher than the other, unequal gaps between the arms and the trunk of the body, one shoulder blade is higher than the other or flares out more. Just looking at the spine, it is obviously curved. The eye line is different, shoulder levels, forward head posture, head to hip line. There’s lots of different ways that we can visually see that. Symptoms wise, they can look at that as an individual determinant as well. Pain, decreased range of motion, and postural abnormalities are the most often used.
If scoliosis is discovered in a child or adolescent, what is the treatment protocol like? Is there a chance that it can be corrected?
Dr. Chris Serafini: Depending on the nature of the severity of the scoliosis. First you have to confirm that. Anything from zero to about 30 degrees is considered mild to moderate. Anything from 30 degrees to 49 degrees is pretty moderate to severe. Anything 50 degrees or more is definitely severe. Once you determine what your severity is, then you have to look at what is the scoliosis doing to the patient? Is it affecting them in any way? Pain, decreased range of motion, those types of things. Once you identify that, can it be corrected? There’s lots of different reasons for the scoliosis. You really have to identify that. Once you can confirm that, then your analysis, whether it can be corrected or not has to be evaluated.
Understand this, not all scoliosis have to be absolutely straightened. There are plenty of people out there that function just normally, have normal lives. They have no symptoms. They function asymptomatically even though they have scoliosis. You really need somebody who knows what they are doing to look at that scoliosis and determine whether it needs to be fixed or not, whether it has to be straightened or not. A lot of goals that you have is stop the scoliosis, reverse it or slow it down.
Now if an adult discovers they have scoliosis, is it too late to treat it, or are there exercises and treatment plans that they can follow to help correct it?
Dr. Chris Serafini: Once again, piggy backing off of the answer I just gave, it depends on the severity. It depends on how it is affecting them. Are they symptomatic? Are they asymptomatic? What severity of the symptoms are they having? What is the severity of the degree of the scoliosis? It is not necessarily too late. Most often times it is not. In severe, severe cases it may be.
Once again, your treatment goals for someone is stop it, reverse it, or slow it down. When I talk with my scoliosis patients a lot of times you have to confirm with them, and reevaluate them, and make them understand that it does not have to be absolutely straight. It is very important to understand that. As long as the body is compensated appropriately, and it is a stable scoliosis, then all is good at that point.
In general, why is it so important for one’s overall health to have their spine checked by a chiropractor?
Dr. Chris Serafini: That’s a great question. The spine is the main supportive infrastructure of the body. Most of the time if you actually do a pretty thorough exam, most people have some sort of problems in their spine. Depending on the severity of those problems, maybe they have symptoms, maybe they don’t. Obviously, if the patient has symptoms, then you want to address those issues in their spine, whatever they are. If they don’t have symptoms at the time, but they have problems in their spine, eventually it will cause them to have those problems or symptoms. You want to try to reduce those severity issues that they have. As far as severity, it progresses in nature. You want to try and reduce those as much as possible.
It’s important for everybody to get their spine checked because most people don’t have any idea if they have any issues in their spine, whether they’re symptomatic or not.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Chris Serafini, visit www.thescottsdalechiropractor.com or call 480-443-7678 to schedule an