Thursday, June 19, 2014

Massage and Scoliosis

An abnormal curvature of a person's spine is classified as scoliosis. This spinal deformity reportedly affects over six million people around the US. About 80% of all cases show and develop during infancy and adolescents (between the ages of 4-15) which is when our spines experience the most growth. Adults can be diagnosed with scoliosis but most health care professionals believe it was just missed during childhood. As the research continues, there are some theories as to how this deformity is caused including: connective tissue disorders, nervous system abnormalities, hormonal imbalances, genetic factors, or consistent physical or emotional stress. Sometimes scoliosis can have an adult onset originating from a car accident or other physical traumas or stress to the body.

This condition can be in a correctable/functional or permanent state. Functional Scoliosis is a structurally fine spine that appears curved from other structural issues within the body such as: different leg lengths or inflammatory conditions including appendicitis. Any child or adult can develop functional scoliosis by leaning more on one leg than the other while standing if it becomes a true habit.

Though Scoliosis is said to be idiopathic (not having a known cause), manual therapists that are trained structurally have found that many idiopathic scoliosis cases which were labeled as permanent were actually caused by an unleved/unbalanced sacral or cranial base. Today, termed idiopathic scoliosis cases are popping up less and less. Resent studies are showing that lowered bone density is playing a large part in these deformities.

These uncomfortable curves can develop either in the thoracic or lumbar spine, although thoracic abnormalities are more likely to progress than in the lumbar region. An irregular 10 degree misalignment of the spine is considered a mild case. Once the curve has reached 70 degrees off the optimal straight alignment, it can cause the rib cage to push up against the heart and lungs. This can make it very difficult to breath and makes the hearts job intensely difficult. These curves cause one side of the spine's muscles to shorten and the opposite side to become elongated and weakened. This can bring on back pain, sciatic, and headaches.

Western medicine has three choices of action to take: Observation, Orthopedic bracing, and/or surgery. Observation is used for mild cases and is the simple act of watching to make sure the deformities don't progress. Orthopedic bracing is the updated version of the non-removable torso cast that used to be implemented. The brace is the most common treatment and doesn't improve the state of the curve but keeps it from worsening. This is mostly applied during the child's spinal growth phase and can only be removed for one hour each day or night. Surgery is used to stabilize the spine in severe cases. Small pieces of bone are removed from the patient's pelvis, placed between their vertebrae, and held in place by metal rods, hooks, and wires until the bones fuse together.

Alternative approaches are not quite as invasive or uncomfortable! Cranial-Sacral Therapy can be very helpful in restoring some mobilization of the body and bringing balance back to the spine. This therapy is a gentle manipulation and mobilization of the fascia with gentle traction along with it. Deep Tissue massage and Tui Na with assisted stretching can relieve muscular pain and enhance circulation. By elongating the shortened side of the spine with deep techniques, it can relax the spine and take away some of the strained or pulling feel in the back. Deep work on the overstretched side of the spine covering the ribs is contraindicated.

By: Madison Nicolet-Lloyd


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