Scoliosis is the medical term used to indicate that a person has a curvature of the spine. This can take the form a gradual curve upwards to the left or right from the pelvis, or consist of a curve to one side and then move to the other, a double scoliosis. Both are more common than is generally believed.
Scoliosis can occur at birth or as a child grows and is rarely detected as parents and Health Care professionals do not actively look for them. Curvatures can also develop from accidents, or over time from bad posture or a repetitive work related movement.
Some people are severely deformed by their spinal curvatures which can also include the twisting of the body. For these people movement can be so restricted that life is a constant painful battle.
An Ongoing Problem
Generally, it is only over a number of years that someone with a curvature will notice any discomfort or pain, However, some people suffer from an early age if the curves are so extreme that pressure is induced to one side of a single or multiple number of spinal discs. This can cause not only pain but also the tendency of the disc(s) to bulge on one side, pressing onto the spinal cord and also giving restricted space for the nerves exiting the spine.
Muscles also suffer over time as they are misshapen by the curvature. This will result in the muscles on the concave side of a curvature being stretch further than they should, and those on the convex side of the curve being pushed into a space that is less than the muscle mass, thus creating a hump or bulge. Because the muscles can not function as they should they are usually constantly tense, work inefficiently and cause discomfort leading to pain.
Some Causes of Scoliosis
As mentioned above, some people are born with curvatures, caused by anomalies in the bone structure. However, the cause of some other curvatures are not known. It is also possible that some curvatures are genetic, passed from one of the parents to the child, or a combination of genes.
Scoliosis can also be caused by a difference in leg lengths. If you imagine that your legs and pelvis are the legs and top of a table. If one leg is shorter than the other leg the table top is not totally horizontal and slopes to one side. Anything that stands on this table top is not truly vertical, and the thing that stands on our table top is our spine. If our pelvis is not horizontal then the spine stands slightly leaning to one side. Gradually, bit by bit, our spine will develop curves.
In the young this is not normally that noticeable and does not slow a child down. But, as we grow our amazing bodies are adapting our frame to enable us to function: to play, to work, to walk, run, to sit and lay down and all the other things we ask our bodies to perform. It is only in our thirties or forties and onwards that we start to notice the price to be paid. Our spine is now fully curved and the muscles in our back find it hard to function as they are have built up a memory from a curved spine, not a straight one. Remember, the muscles are stretched or clumped together and can’t function as they should. The curve is also putting pressure on our discs, which as mentioned above can then lead to another set of problems with our nerves.
Our body now functions in an increasingly limited number of ways, as it does not have the freedom of movement that a straight spine gives. As we grow older our bodies becomes less and less able to operate as we wish, although we can still get around. The adaption process has now become a semi-conscious process, as we have to misuse our body to move. This in turn can mean that we develop a hunched appearance and have torsional twist in our body.
We can also develop curvatures from accidents or poorly performed hip operations, but essentially these generally create different leg lengths.
As with most complaints, a diagnosis is the first place to start. However, many Healthcare Professionals and therapists working in the Complementary Health sector do not observe patients correctly.
A typical patient with scoliosis that has been caused by leg length differences will have certain visual clues that the observant practisioner will pick up on; They may look like they lean to one side; One shoulder could be higher than the other; Their shoulders will vertically not be in line with their hips; They could well have problems sitting and standing up; They may have pain in their back; They will stand with one leg slightly bent and might walk with a limp.
When I meet a patient with any of these symptoms, I use a test to check what I believe to be the cause. This is simply to slide a book under the foot of the leg I suspect to be shorter. Normally the patient will exclaim that they feel level or balanced (followed by various other emotions ranging from joy at finally getting to the bottom of their problem, to outright anger that no one they have seen previously has ever thought to do something similar).
There is a possibility that the leg length discrepence has been caused by one of the hip joints not being seated correctly. This can occur through accidents, hypamobility of the joints or the fact that in certain leg positions, movement upwards can cause the femur to come into contact with the front of the pelvis. Continued upward movement levers the hip joint apart.
Dorn Method treatment
The basic fundermental principle of Dorn Method is establishing correct leg length and a balanced pelvis, as this is our body’s foundation that everything thing else works around. Once I have fully identify the problem, and having ensured that both hips joints are engaged correctly, I then start to straighten their scoliosis using Dorn Method. I also show my patients how they can treat themselves by simply using a door frame or the corner of a wall. This is enpowering as it gives them some control over their own healing.
If the patient has a true leg length difference then I refer them to their GP, for onward referral to their nearest Orthopedic unit. Orthopedic units will take the patients normal shoes and subtly adapt them to make up for the different leg lengths.