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Scoliosis Treatment In Adults

What you don’t know about adult scoliosis can cause you unnecessary pain. But there is something you can do.

Does your scoliosis leave you feeling hopeless? Do you feel like your curve’s slow but relentless progression is out of control? Do you worry about how your condition will progress and worsen over time?

The research on scoliosis tells us that a typical adult will have progression of their curve, and that the progression will vary from 0.5 to 3.0 degrees per year.

I have great news for you: Your condition is treatable. There is hope.

Countless adult scoliosis sufferers have experienced relief from the pain, disability, fear, and poor self-image that often accompany scoliosis. You can be one of them.

You are about to learn about the solution for scoliosis that you didn’t believe was possible. You can change the course of your scoliosis progression. You can do something to change your future. The power is in your hands.

The 4 Biggest Concerns For Adult Scoliosis Sufferers

There is a big difference between adolescent scoliosis and adult scoliosis. If you’ve been a scoliosis patient for a long time, you may wrongly believe that your condition will be no different in the future than it was to this point.

Adult scoliosis has two main concerns that don’t apply to a majority of adolescent sufferers. They are:

  • Pain
  • Disability

Adult and adolescent scoliosis share two other main concerns:

  • Progression
  • Aesthetics

Each of these concerns can contribute to the deterioration of a scoliosis patient’s quality of life as they get older.

Pain and scoliosis in adults

Though it is rare for scoliosis to cause pain in adolescence, pain is a common symptom of scoliosis in adults. The patients in my office receiving adult scoliosis treatment all say the same thing. They were told they had scoliosis as children and teens and advised to “watch and wait.” Then around middle age, quite often sooner, they begin to experience back pain, hip pain, or other symptoms only to discover that scoliosis is the underlying culprit.

In a 2007 study of 51 adult scoliosis sufferers between the ages of 17 and 60:

Pain reported by adult scoliosis sufferers

  • 84% (43 out of 51) experienced low back pain.
  • 43% (22 out of 51) experienced nerve root pain.
  • Only 8% (4 out of 51) of patients reported no pain at all.
  • 92% of the sample group said that they experienced pain regularly as a symptom of their scoliosis.

One of our patients recalls the sudden and unexpected onset of pain she experienced as an adult after having no pain when she was younger:

Disability related to scoliosis in adults

Another terrible consequence of untreated scoliosis is disability. You lose your freedom to do the things that you love to do and can become less and less independent. Some severe scoliosis sufferers cannot even stand or walk because their condition is so degenerative. This is known as postural collapse and occurs in adults due to the relentless effect of gravity on the scoliotic spine.

As scoliosis patients become older, the likelihood of disability increases. Without treatment, disability from scoliosis can cause you to be confined to bed, unable to move without the aid of someone else, and completely without freedom to do the things that you enjoy.

One Strauss Scoliosis Correction patient had such severe scoliosis that she could not walk and was confined to her bed. She was without any freedom and independence. But after just 6 weeks, she was able to walk and move again without any pain or discomfort:

Progression of scoliosis in adults

Even worse than the severe pain or limiting disability that can occur for scoliosis sufferers is the feeling of utter helplessness to do anything about it. When you do not receive treatment for scoliosis and simply “watch and wait,” you are vulnerable to the likely outcome that your curve will get much worse over time.

all LARGE curves start off as small ones

The above series of X-rays shows the progression of an untreated child from ages 9 to 13. You can see that this patient’s upper curve progressed 45 degrees and the lower curve progressed 37 degrees in just 4 years. In an adult, the curve progression is typically much slower.

Research shows that the curve progression in an adult will vary between 0.5 to 3.0 degrees per year, depending on the shape of the curve, overall curve size, and the age of the scoliosis onset.

It was previously thought that progression only happens for people with more extreme curves of more than 30 or 40 degrees. But more recent studies on scoliosis have proven that scoliosis curves can and often do progress drastically and in a shorter period of time, especially as you get older.

A 2003 study found that 36% of adolescents with scoliosis had progressed by more than 10° after 22 years.

Damon was diagnosed in 10th grade. After X-rays and visits to specialists no treatment was prescribed because his scoliosis wasn’t “bad enough”. He went to a chiropractor and acupuncturist but all it did was lessen some pain and discomfort while providing no visible changes:

No One Can Say Definitively How Your Curves Will Progress.

There is no telling how your curve will progress in the future, no matter what doctors predict based on other patients. The truth is that no one can tell the future, and yours is uncertain. That’s why it is so important to get effective treatment for your scoliosis instead if waiting, only to find that you are one of those unlucky scoliosis patients whose curve progressed.

You don’t have to wait and watch your curve progress. You don’t have to live in fear that you will be one of the unlucky ones. There is something you can do.

Aesthetics of scoliosis in adults

While pain, disability, and the progression of your curves are the most serious and urgent results of adult scoliosis, the way that you look when you go about your daily life is a very real and important consideration for scoliosis sufferers.

In addition to worrying about the possibility of your condition deteriorating over time and resulting in pain, you sometimes feel self-conscious because of the way your scoliosis makes you look.

“I hated the way I was different. My friends were always asking me if I was in pain because my hip was sticking out to the side when I walked. Yes, I was in some pain, but I didn’t want anyone to notice, but they all did.”

So many scoliosis sufferers can relate to this feeling of being different from everyone else. Even if you are experiencing no pain, your scoliosis appears as a disability in the eyes of people you see at work, at the supermarket, in interviews, at gatherings with friends, and everywhere you go.

The good news is that treatment for your scoliosis can stabilize, and possibly even modestly reduce your scoliosis and allow you to experience less pain, disability, progression, and self-consciousness.

Research shows that even if the curve can only be modestly reduced, significant postural improvement is still very possible!

Katherine was suffering from back pain for 40 years. She went to many different physical therapists, chiropractors and doctors to no avail. The pain worsened and began to spread to her shoulder:

Are you at high risk of experiencing one of these major symptoms of adult scoliosis?

Not all scoliosis is created equally. While there is no way of knowing how your condition will progress or deteriorate over time as you get older, there are some factors that studies have shown increase your chances of unpredictable progression and the pain, disability, and poor self-image that accompany it.

To determine your level of risk, it’s important to understand the different types of adult scoliosis. Which are you?

Adolescent Scoliosis in Adults (ASA)

Adolescent Scoliosis in Adults (ASA) is the adult version of scoliosis that presented during adolescence. Once skeletal maturity is reached (your bones have finished developing – typically around 16-18 years of age), a patient with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis is now said to have ASA. There is typically a slow increase (about 0.5-2.5 degrees per year) in the curvature that began during teenage years in an otherwise healthy individual  that becomes progressive during adult life. Where does that put you 10 years from now? 30 years from now?

Here are characteristics of Adolescent Scoliosis in Adults (ASA):

  • Any curve type as long as it presented during adolescence
  • May be stable or progressive
  • May develop a degenerative stage later in life
  • Often not painful until later in adulthood
  • Pain typically an issue in unbalanced curves, especially curves in the lower rib cage area and those that are only in the lower spines
  • Often progressive later in life in a degenerative phase

Despite extensive research, the only thing that we know about the future of the ASA patient is  that we don’t know. Pain becomes an issue for a majority of AIS sufferers, but there is no way of knowing exactly how your case of AIS will progress or deteriorate over time.

Degenerative De-Novo Scoliosis in Adults

Degenerative De-Novo Scoliosis is scoliosis that starts later in life, around age 45 and older. This type of scoliosis often deteriorates more rapidly and less predictably than Adult Idiopathic Scoliosis. It often comes about as a result of some other issue, such as arthritis or the deterioration of discs and joints.

Here are some of the characteristics of Degenerative De-Novo Scoliosis:

  • New curve in adults that developed as a result of degenerative instability (arthritis or disc deterioration, for example)
  • Usually lumbar curve, and usually unbalanced
  • Large, rigid curves in adults older than 45
  • Pain is primary issue
  • Moderate to severe degenerative changes present

If you have Degenerative De-Novo Scoliosis, you are at high risk of:

  • Pain
  • Disability
  • Unpredictable progression of your curves

Other High-Risk Situations of Scoliosis in Adults

Even if you have ASA, you may be at higher-than-average risk of pain, disability, and progression. You may be at higher risk if you:

  1. Have thoracolumbar (middle of your back) and lumbar (lower back) curves
  2. Have significant coronal (the head is not over the hips) imbalance. Data has shown that patients with a coronal (side to side)  shift of more than 2 inches results in poorer everyday function and greater pain than coronal shifts of less than 2 inches. (Glassmen, et al. Spine 2005)
adult scoliosis coronal imbalance
  1. Have positive sagittal balance. Sagittal balance is a measure of how far forward the persons head is shifted over their torso. This forward shifted head is related to:
scoliosis in adult patients

Research shows that even if the curve can only be modestly reduced you can still achieve drastic changes to postural alignment. The image below shows the posture analysis taken during the patient’s initial examination compared with the analysis taken after they finished a One-week Intensive treatment program for scoliosis.

Scoliosis Treatment in Adults: Traditional Options

Traditional scoliosis treatments require that you either do nothing or commit to dangerous and risky surgery.

Below are what you’ve been told are your only options to experience relief from your scoliosis. As you can see, none of them are satisfactory because they do not address the root cause of scoliosis. Additionally, they are risky, uncertain, and in some cases, downright dangerous.

Option #1: “Watch and Wait”

You already know how risky, dangerous, and uncertain it is to take the traditional advice of “watch and wait.” While it is possible for our exercise based scoliosis programs to prevent further progression and pain,  it is more challenging to treat progression and pain once it has already begun.

Besides this, “watch and wait” has serious implications for your mental health. Traditional medicine does not always account for the fear, uncertainty, and hopelessness that is a part of the daily lives of those with scoliosis.

Option #2: Risky and Dangerous Surgery

Nearly every scoliosis sufferer has considered the option of surgery as a solution. Many patients who feel helpless to improve their condition think that this is the only way they can have control over their situation. It’s easy to see why: faced with daily pain and disability, the patient would rather pursue the small chance of hope that surgery will help them than continue with what they know will happen if they “watch and wait”: exactly the prison they have experienced so far, along with the chance that their condition will get even worse over time.

Scoliosis Surgery in adults

Surgery to correct scoliosis involves placing one or two metal rods stabilized by hooks and screws along the spine in an effort to prevent further curvature. The surgeon uses pins and bone grafts to keep the rod in place next to the spine. This is called “fusion surgery.” The spinal bones are fused together, destroying the joints of the spine.

The surgeon will create a long, deep incision along the spine and spread the ribs to access the spine area. This leaves a conspicuous scar and involves a lengthy and painful recovery period.

High risk of complication

According to a 2002 German study on the long-term effects of surgery on idiopathic scoliosis, “40% of operated patients with idiopathic scoliosis were legally defined as severely handicapped persons” after receiving rod and screw surgery.

Here are some firsthand accounts by people who had the Harrington rod surgery:

“My dad has had metal rods in his back since 1995. They are horrible. He is in so much more pain than before and now every doctor says there is nothing they can do for him because the rods can never come out. I am trying to get him into the mayo clinic but so far haven’t had any luck. He lives in constant pain.”

– Orthopedics Forum – Broken Harrington Rod

“I had/have been having a lot of back pain. Last summer I went back to the doctor that did the surgery. That is when I found out that my rod is broken. I don’t know when it happened. I just know I have constant pain in my shoulder blade on up. So, unfortunately, yes the rod can break. But, I do not know the solution.”

– National Scoliosis Foundation Forums

“My daughter had her titanium Harrington rods removed on May 24th. She was two years post injury, and had constant, deep pain in her lower back. She was also constantly nauseated, making it difficult to eat.”

– CareCure Forums – Removal of Harrington Rods

“I was told the best they could do as a last resort would be to to cut off pieces at each end of the break to keep the broken halves from banging into each other.The rods were grafted/fused to my back using pieces of my hip. I was told to remove them would be extremely difficult and there was a good chance I’d be worse off afterward.”

– Spina Bifida Connection Support Forum-Broken Harrington Rod Pics

Option #3: Ineffective and uncomfortable braces

For over 500 years, the scoliosis back brace has been used. Until very recently, there had been no definitive evidence of its effectiveness.

The goal of scoliosis bracing was always stabilization, not correction – all too often, a scoliosis brace even fails at stabilization. Scoliosis braces like the Boston Brace, Milwaukee Brace, Providence Brace, Charleston Brace, or the many TLSO braces that are available at hospitals around the world, are ill fitting and seek to lock the scoliosis into its distortion. This is similar to what a cast does to a broken arm – lock it in place. This does not work with scoliosis and is seen by many as just a “waiting room for surgery”.

For the adult scoliosis patient, the risk of postural collapse, as the spine distortion increases, means that a properly designed brace can be a powerful aid to our corrective program of exercise-based care.

A new type of brace has recently been released that we use in adult patients who are at risk of postural collapse. We use the brace in approximately 15-20% of adult patients.

The new brace design is called ScoliBrace. This brace was released in 2012 and utilizes a unique, super-corrective scoliosis bracing method. Used in conjunction with the 3D imaging software, BraceScan, scans of the patient are taken and the brace is customized to fit their unique measurements and needs.

By positioning the body and spine in their over-corrected, or mirror image, position, the ScoliBrace can have a super-corrective effect. Significant postural changes are achieved in the majority of cases, as well as improvements to rib arching, shoulder level and the overall appearance of the body. This innovative new design is reducing pain, improving postural appearance, and can even prevent postural collapse from happening.

We ALWAYS combine use of the ScoliBrace with a custom-designed program of home exercises. Many of our adult patients wear the brace 3-5 hours per day and get excellent symptomatic relief when used in combination with our custom designed exercise program.

Introducing the Strauss Method

There is something you can do about the progression of your adult scoliosis.

You no longer have to live with the hopelessness, fear, uncertainty, pain, or disability that accompanies your scoliosis prognosis. And you don’t have to live with the poor options with which you’ve been presented to either “watch and wait,” have surgery, or wear an uncomfortable, ineffective, and conspicuous “old technology” back brace.

There is something you can do about the progression of your adult scoliosis. There is a solution besides waiting and watching your curves get worse or undergoing risky and ineffective spine surgery.

The Strauss Method for scoliosis treatment in adults offers an alternative solution. It works by using proven chiropractic treatments to re-educate the muscles and central nervous system to address the root cause of scoliosis rather than treating the symptoms.

scoliosis treatment in adults - demonstration of strauss method

Why It Works

To understand how the Strauss Method can improve your condition and reduce your curve, it is important to understand the underlying cause of scoliosis. Experts believe that scoliosis is caused in large part by the incorrect autonomic neural patterns of standing and walking.

The Strauss Method retrains the brain to stand and walk correctly by using Neuromuscular Re-education (NMR). By repeatedly teaching the brain to move in different ways, it carves neural pathways for healthier habits of movement. Once these muscles which have long been unused are retrained with specific exercises, it opens the door to improvement in motion that reduces pain and further progression. In many cases, it actually reverses progression. This is how the Strauss Method solution leads to permanent and effective improvement for scoliosis sufferers.

The Top 5 Benefits of the Strauss Method

  1. Reversal of curve progression and significant postural change with improved cosmetic appearance. Yes! It is possible to have modest reduction, even in adult scoliosis, and it is very likely to see substantial postural improvement!
  2. Gives patients control over their condition. Scoliosis sufferers can finally be done with that feeling of hopelessness and helplessness for good, because they know that they hold the power for real and lasting change.
  3. More lung capacity and more room for organs. Many scoliosis sufferers do not realize the effect their condition has on their lung capacity and organ position. Once they begin to see improvement from their treatment, they can’t believe the improvement in comfort and health that they feel.
  4. More energy. Many of our patients have reported more energy to do the things they love to do such as spend time with their family and friends, be independent, and have enjoyable and productive work lives.
  5. Relief or reduced chance of future pain, disability, or deteriorated aesthetics. This is the primary concern for scoliosis sufferers, especially for adult patients.

The Strauss Method has given scoliosis sufferers freedom, quality of life, and peace of mind. You won’t believe the additional benefits that come with slowing your progression and decreasing your pain. You have the opportunity to non-invasively improve your condition and your life. What would you give to have hope that your condition will not get worse, but instead will improve?

Features of the Strauss Method

  • Effective. Unlike traditional bracing, which has little to no evidence of effectiveness, the Strauss Method has been effective for thousands of scoliosis patients worldwide.
  • Treats the cause, not the symptom. The reason the Strauss Method works is because it addresses the root of the problem by retraining muscle memory and strengthening the muscles of the body that work to support and correct posture.
  • An alternative to medicine. Over the course of many years on pain medicine, the cost is exorbitant and the toll on your health even more so. Most importantly, in the end, what do you have to show for it? No change or improvement of your condition—just a mask over the pain and curve that still exists under the surface.
  • Custom treatment plan. Scoliosis is different from patient to patient, including the type of scoliosis, severity, age of the patient, and plenty of other factors. That’s why the Strauss Method protocol is to develop a custom treatment plan for each patient.
  • No risk. Unlike risky and dangerous surgery, you have nothing to lose by trying the Strauss Method treatment at Strauss Scoliosis Correction. We have seen case after case of the treatment improving the condition and quality of life for patients of all ages. But if it does not work for you, you are not left with a lifelong handicap or chronic pain that can be the result of surgery.

How It Works

Now that you understand why the Strauss Method works to reverse scoliosis curves in patients of all ages and levels of progression, take a look at exactly how the treatment works.

The Strauss Method has two frequency options, both of which have two main parts: the standard frequency of 2-3 times a week visits over 2-3 months (approximately 90 minutes per visit) OR the intensive treatment plan (1-2 weeks of 3-5 hours per day, 5 days a week). Both frequency options include customized, at-home exercises to be completed twice daily. The length of your treatment depends on the severity of your curvature (size of the curve, amount of degeneration, level of pain being experienced as well as the location and shape of the  scoliosis).

If you choose to take the intensive program option (typically for patients who live over one hour away from the center OR who prefer to get a quick jump start on their treatment program), your treatment schedule will look like this:

If you have a curve of LESS than 25 degrees, (low pain levels, minor degenerative changes), you qualify for a 1-week intensive course.

If you have a curve of MORE than 25 degrees, you qualify for a 2-week intensive course.

scoliosis treatment in adults - sample schedule

Precision X-Rays

In order to create the most effective custom treatment plan for you, we take an initial X-ray. Unlike other treatment approaches, the Strauss Method has a holistic philosophy: we believe in addressing the cause and not the symptoms of scoliosis. This involves taking a full series of small focused X-rays that includes  views of the hips, shoulders, and neck to pinpoint causes outside of the range of the spine. This is one of the unique aspects of the Strauss Method, and it often allows patients to see quicker and more dramatic results. We follow up these X-rays with periodic X-rays every 3 – 6 months, allowing us to confirm that we are on the right track and improving the patient’s condition. We never guess about the effect of the exercises. By using state of the art digital high frequency X-rays, we can prove the correct application of the care program with minimal radiation. Rest assured, we always use thorough lead shielding to minimize radiation exposure.

The Intensive Treatment Plan in 3 Steps

Step 1: Mix

The “mix” step is the warming up of the spin in preparation for the correctional exercises to come. It sets up the spine for structural changes by warming up the inter-vertebral discs, making them flexible and mobile. Just like cold silly putty is difficult to manipulate, so the discs between vertebrae are inflexible and rigid when not properly stimulated.

Here are some of the elements of this step:

  • The Wobble Chair – A treatment chair that sits on a ball-and-socket joint and flexes in every direction to put the spine through a full range of motion.
scoliosis treatment - wobble chair
  • Cervical Traction – A self-administered traction that pumps the body’s own fluid and nutrients into the discs of the neck.
  • Vibrating Traction – Uses a slow, relaxing vibration intended to relax the ligaments and soft tissues of the spine.
  • Eckard Flexion/Distraction Table – A special motorized table with belts that pull (not push) the scoliotic curves out of the spine.
Eckard Table used to lock in corrected changes to spine

Step 2: Fix

Once the inter-vertebral discs are warmed up, it’s time to move on to correcting the spinal curves.

The adjustment phase of the treatment uses instrument-assisted adjusting using the minimum amount of force necessary to make the correction. This allows the patient to experience no pain from the treatment, even as new muscle areas are being strengthened.

The adjustment phase is different for every patient and based on their initial x-rays. The effectiveness of the treatment plan is confirmed with the follow-up x-rays.

Mechanical adjusting instruments and specialized drop pieces enhance the precision and effectiveness of chiropractic care, while also reducing the amount of force required to correct the spine. The application of these adjustments, or precision manipulations, are correlated with the information obtained from the patient’s x-rays, computerized posture analysis, and physical examinations.  We avoid “cracking” or “twisting” the neck!  The adjustments are gentle and painless.

gentle adjustments for adult scoliosis treatment

Step 3: Set

Immediately after the adjustment phase of the treatment, a final step sets the treatment in place, allowing for permanent change that can be built upon in future treatments. This involves:

  • Spinal weighting protocols (typically on the head, torso, or hips).
  • Whole-body vibration therapy.
  • Gait therapy which re-trains patterns of moving and walking.
Neuromuscular Re-education

Active At-Home Rehabilitation Exercises

If it sounds too good to be true that a week or two of intensive treatment can lead to permanent changes in your scoliosis condition, that’s because it is: the nature of the Strauss Method requires at-home exercises once or twice daily in order to see results. The treatment process is one that must be actively and consistently followed by the patient. Together, office treatments and at-home exercises will allow you to see improvement in your scoliosis that you thought was not possible. It takes between 300 and 350 repetitions of the home program to make the changes permanent.

The Choice Is Yours

You no longer have to live with the pain, disability, fear, and uncertainty that you’ve experienced everyday since the onset of your scoliosis.

There is something you can do.

There is hope for your condition.

You can live the life you always dreamed of having.

All you need to do to begin your life of freedom is pick up the phone and call us today.