From An Upper Cervical Chiropractic Perspective


Scoliosis in middle age: common questions and one woman’s story

I have scoliosis and I’m middle aged. Is it too late for me to get help from a chiropractor? Plus…

  • One woman’s story after four weeks of spinal care with scoliosis
  • And answering your common questions about scoliosis in adulthood by a doctor who works with adults with scoliosis

Most scoliosis information focuses on children and teens

Almost all information on scoliosis talks about diagnosis and treatment when the patient is young. This makes sense, as most scoliosis shows up in the preteen or teenage years.

But, most of these young patients with scoliosis do grow up to be middle aged patients with a spinal scoliosis.

And middle aged adults with scoliosis will experience the same levels of spinal pain that other adults have. And some scoliosis patients will have more problems than adults with more normal spine curvature.

Kids with scoliosis often become adults with scoliosis who have questions about their spinal issues

Because their spine has a different shape, middle aged scoliosis patients…

  • Often believe that their pain is normal
  • Often believe that their pain cannot be be helped
  • And they may even get the impression that they can’t be helped from a doctor, or from a family member or friend

Because their spine has a different shape, middle aged scoliosis patients

  • May be afraid to seek help from a chiropractor
  • And they might believe that the different shape makes their condition more complicated

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition of the spine where the spine develops a lateral curve or curves (viewed from the back). Scoliosis is not a disease, and often has no known cause, a condition called idiopathic scoliosis.

Scoliosis Thoracolumbar IllustrationIs my scoliosis causing my spinal pain?

The first thing you should know if you have spinal pain and a scoliosis,

  • There’s no conclusive research that says your spinal pain must be coming from your scoliosis
  • A lot of adults without scoliosis have spinal pain for many different reasons
  • Your unique spinal curves are not necessarily the the source of your pain – and if they are, they are probably not your only source

My opinion: If your doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist is convinced that all of your pain is coming from your spinal curvature, than you might need to get help from another provider with a different set of eyes to examine your situation.

Is spinal pain more likely if I have a scoliosis?

There’s some research that says

  • Yes, you’re more likely to have some pain than other adults without scoliosis
  • The increase in prevalence of pain is related to the shape of the curves, and not the size
  • A single curve between the lower spine and mid-spine (thoraco-lumbar curve) is associated with more pain, while having two curves is not associated with more pain

In other words, the size of the curve doesn’t mean more pain, but the location of the curve and/or curves and its (their) shape can mean you’re more likely to have pain.

But remember, while spinal pain shouldn’t be considered normal, it is is common, so just having a scoliosis, even with a large curve, shouldn’t be seen as the only cause of your pain.

Will my pain be worse if I have a scoliosis?

  • There’s no conclusive evidence that your spinal pain is going to be worse if you have scoliosis curves
  • And that means your pain won’t necessarily last longer or be stronger just because you have spinal scoliosis

If you think your spinal pain is bad and is more likely to stay bad because you have scoliosis curves, you may be selling yourself short.

So, if I’m middle aged, and have scoliosis, is it too late for me to get help from a chiropractor?

No, it’s not too late for you to be helped by a chiropractor, especially if you have a good understanding of what a good chiropractor can do for you.

  • A good chiropractor will be able to address problem areas of your spinal structure, bringing them to better balance, even if you have a scoliosis
  • The different shape of your spine may make the process more complicated for your chiropractor, but it shouldn’t make the process more complicated for you
  • Bringing better balance to the spine is a great way to address the many reasons why you may have spinal pain, neck pain, headaches, numbness and tingling, sciatica, digestion issues, and any number of nagging concerns

After careful consideration of the research and my experience as a provider, here are a few personal recommendations I have. Keep in mind someone else may not agree with me.

My opinion…

  • Correcting your middle aged scoliosis from a large curve to no curve is not realistic
  • A provider that reports being able to straighten your scoliosis curves with a guarantee of success is a provider that may be less than honest
  • A reduction in the size of the curve or curves may be still be possible, even in middle age with the proper spinal care and patience with the process
  • But a reduction in the curve is probably not necessary for pain relief to arrive

One middle aged woman’s experience with gentle structural corrections, centered on the neck

scolioisis posture before and afterHere’s a picture of the positive shift in her spinal balance. Even though she has a large scoliosis, with two curves, one in her lower spine, and one in her upper, we were able to see improvement in her structure.

With this improvement she reported a substantial decrease in pain, and an immediate release of chronic anxiety.

Here are a few important points:

  • She experienced a great deal of daily, chronic pain and anxiety (there is a link between certain scoliosis patterns and mental health challenges)
  • She has been under various forms of spinal care for pain for several years with some decrease in her pain and improvement in her curvature
  • She sought help in my office because of my focus on the neck and upright body structure, and she believed her progress had stopped under other forms of spinal care
  • We screened her structure during a consultation to find out if we could expect a shift in her spine, and based on her response to holding a few, key pressure points in her neck
  • She received two gentle corrections to her neck in my office for four weeks in between the before and after picture
  • She also received support care in the form of light pressure holds on parts of her pelvis

Putting it all together – chiropractic, scoliosis, and middle age

Here are the most important points to take away from this article:

  • Scoliosis in middle age is not a life sentence for chronic pain
  • You don’t have to straighten your spine to experience relief
  • A good chiropractor will examine your structure and improve its balance whether you have a scoliosis or not, leading to a better quality of life

Are you in adult with a scoliosis? Are you looking to consult with a gentle, structurally focused chiropractor who uses methods that are safe and effective for your condition?

Please use the contact form below or call the office number.

Reference: Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: natural history and long term treatment effects

Image: staff. “Blausen gallery 2014“. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine. DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 20018762


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