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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Is it possible to prevent scoliosis?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Dr David Salisbury is an osteopath situated in Bairnsdale, in East Gippsland, Victoria. He completed his osteopathic studies at RMIT University, and now works at … View Profile

    Unfortunately, as the majority (85%) of scoliosis are due to an unknown cause, they can't be prevented. In other words, we can't prevent it because we don't know what causes it.

    If you have an underlying problem such as a short leg or a musculoskeletal condition, this could lead to a scoliosis. Therefore if you saw a health professional (GP, osteopath, chiropractor, physiotherapist) qualified in diagnosing those conditions, in theory you could have the condition treated and the scoliosis prevented. This would be a rare situation though, as you would have to be in the 15% that have a known cause to their scoliosis AND identify the condition before a scoliosis develops AND it would have to be a treatable condition.

    If you're concerned, it's best to see someone to evaluate if you are at risk of a curvature developing.

    Dr David Salisbury - Osteopath -

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    Dr Ryan Hislop


    Ryan Hislop is the Clinical Director at the Mudgee Chiropractic Health and Wellness Centre. As an experienced and evidence-based diagnostician, Ryan works largely by medical … View Profile

    As Dr Salisbury noted, the majority of scoliosis causes remains unknown and may be due to many reasons. Traditionally we thought that it may have been due to a short leg on one side or habitual postures.

    Currently, latest research and thoughts propose that the causes of idiopathic scoliosis are neurological in origin, including brain asymmetry , neural axis deformities, central nervous system processing errors and integrative problems. It is not exatly known why, but at this stage some preliminatry data suggestsit it may be due to poor sensory input from muscles, ligaments and spinal joints.

    Recently, there has been a shift in scoliosis research towards brain based models. There is an amassing evidence suggesting that a sensory disorder may be the primary component of abnormal spinal curvatures. Proprioception (joint position sense) appears compromised in those suffering from idiopathic scoliosis along with impaired static balance and postural control. Furthermore, integration of visual and vestibular signals appear compromised in scoliosis patients, leading to problems with control when our balance is challenged. 

    As our understanding of spinal deformity grows, so does the appreciation for the central neurological effects of treatments such as spinal manipulation. Far from being the simplistic mechanical model of realightment, this treatment of the spine appears to influence the neuraxis at many levels. Current research in New Zealand has begun to assemble a significant amounts of data that look into this and are finding that treatment directed at the cervical spine has dramatic effects on sensorimotor integration. 

    Unfortunately, even with this knowledge and the ability to improve posture, balance and symmetry of spinal musculature, there is a lack of predictability. Therefore, it is difficulty to predict if an individual can prevent scoliosis. Some case studies have shown that scoliosis can be halted and reversed, although larger studies need to see if this was just a one off, or a more predictable method of improving spinal curves. 
    Either way, as a final remark; it is definitely time to understand that previous theories of scoliosis being due to carrying the school bag on one shoulder has long outrun its course in this current day and age. 

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