Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
Can Spinal Manipulation Straighten a Scoliotic Spine?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

My husband was diagnosed with scoliosis prior to entering the military at the age of seventeen. He is now thirty-six, and his scoliosis is well pronounced. He went to the chiropractor's office in hope of obtaining relief for his back pain. The doctor told him that he could straighten his spinal column, which is now a prominent S-curve. My husband was told that there has been successful treatment in this area with chiropractic care.

My question is this: Are there documented reports that chiropractic care can correct scoliosis in patients? Please let me know before my husband continues with a treatment that could render him in more pain or is offering him false hope.

Answer

Spinal adjustments will not straighten a structural scoliosis in a 36-year-old adult. If the scoliosis measures more than twenty degrees, it might tend to get a little worse as the years pass, contributing to the development of arthritis and disc degeneration. Appropriate spinal manipulation to loosen vertebrae and stretch back muscles might help relieve back-pain symptoms, but the degree of curvature cannot be changed. Excessive or inappropriate manipulation used to "straighten" a scoliosis could very well aggravate arthritic joints that have been molded to fit into the curves of the spine.

"Documented studies" or case reports produced by chiropractors who claim that spinal adjustments will correct a structural scoliosis are not reliable and have not verified iby scientific studies.

Spinal manipulation should be discontinued if it causes pain. If the treatment proves beneficial in relieving symptoms, it can be continued on an as-needed basis. However, because the chiropractor your husband went to was either misinformed or not truthful when he said he could straighten a scoliosis, your husband should look elsewhere if he wants to pursue spinal manipulation as a treatment for back pain.

____________________

Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic's history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.

This page was posted on August 27, 2002.