When it comes to “fixing” scoliosis, it must first be made very clear that scoliosis is incurable. This means no one can ever promise that they are “fixing” scoliosis, but rather treating it or its symptoms. However, as the patients begin to experience symptoms due to scoliosis, treating the symptoms without addressing the curve is ineffective. Therefore, reducing the curve and managing the progressive nature of the condition, should almost always be the goal of treatment.
The main question then becomes, how can one naturally manage scoliosis? Well, there is no one thing that can be done to effectively & naturally manage scoliosis, rather there is a combination of natural treatments that have been shown to be as effective or more effective than invasive measures.
[To learn more about what scoliosis is, read: What Is Scoliosis?. To learn more about what causes scoliosis read: What Causes Scoliosis?. To learn more about how bad scoliosis can get, read: How Bad Can Scoliosis Get?.]
This is important to note, as there are two main schools of thought in scoliosis treatment: the traditional method or the natural (conservative) method. These schools of thought are not completely opposing, but rather do share some similar and true concepts about how scoliosis progresses. To understand why natural treatment is so preferred over traditional methods, one needs to understand the philosophy and methodology of each school of thought.
TRADITIONAL TREATMENT APPROACH
The first school of thought to address is the more invasive approach, the traditional method. This approach often ends with a spinal fusion surgery recommendation once a patient’s curve has progressed to a certain point that becomes concerning medically for internal organs and the spinal cord.
This method is not considered natural because of how often it ends in the recommendation of surgery that involves the use of hardware like rods, screws, and wires to hold the spine in place during bone fusion.
This cannot be considered non-invasive, as the patient will always deal with the effects of the surgery for the rest of their lives.
NATURAL TREATMENT APPROACH
The natural treatment approach to treating scoliosis uses a totally different mindset when looking for ways to manage scoliosis. This would include a combination of exercises, bracing, physical therapy, and chiropractic care, all while avoiding surgery. This more natural approach involves a combination of multiple disciplines to strive for an optimal patient outcome.
The problem with trying to design a natural approach like this as a patient, or even as a doctor, is that these disciplines are rarely housed all in one place. Not only is this inconvenient, but it can also make the whole process fragmented, and lead to little progress in management, as each practitioner is doing their own thing, not communicating to make each treatment synergistic with the next.
Imagine a patient who is going to 5 separate doctors for natural scoliosis management. They need to see an exercise specialist for scoliosis specific exercise, a specialty physical therapist for therapy, a specialty chiropractor for scoliosis-specific adjustments, a specialty massage therapist for soft-tissue therapy, and a specialty Orthotist for help with bracing. If few or none of these specialists communicate, then the individual power of each treatment will not be additive or synergistic.
This is why, even though each specialty has its own power alone, the best approach is always a less fragmented method that combines each specialty in one multifaceted approach, where each doctor has a unified goal and mentality, allowing the individual treatments to work together, even better.
This may sound awesome to anyone looking for natural solutions to scoliosis management, but there remains one minor inconvenience–almost no doctor is properly educated in each and every one of these specialties.
SINGLE LOCATION NATURAL APPROACH
Finding a location that houses practitioners in all of these specialties can prove difficult, but thankfully, DCs–like Dr. Tony Nalda–have invested into developing places like The Scoliosis Reduction Center, where different scoliosis specialists can work together–under one roof–to create a natural management plan that is individualized to the patient and coordinated between specialists.
Because multiple forms of treatment can be provided in one location, this not only increases patient compliance to treatment plans but also ensures that practitioners of different specialties can effectively communicate about treatment philosophy and management plans, improving the efficacy of multifaceted treatment.
Communication between practitioners is more vital than it may seem, as when practitioners do not communicate, one can end up with an orthotist bracing in a way that opposes the physical therapy a patient is receiving, or a series of chiropractic adjustments that oppose the massage therapy is performed.
The result of this kind of opposition in treatment is a lack of progress in management, more hassle for the patient, along with a higher risk of curve progression. This negates the synergistic effects of multiple treatments and even makes them less effective than they could be additively. This should highlight the importance of having one person or office at the head of treatment. When different specialties are not coordinated, treatments can work against each other instead of with each other. This need for timely coordination is most exemplified in adolescent scoliosis, as it can progress extremely rapidly. In most cases, there is only one chance to reduce the curve, before or during its progressive cycle. This makes getting things right the first time of the utmost importance–because there may not be a second chance.
This is also not to say that natural treatment outside of a unified facility is impossible to achieve. Rather, it is to highlight that the most effective way to manage scoliosis naturally is to ensure that specialties not only communicate but also coordinate treatment so that each specialty is working together for common goals in management. This is simply logistically difficult outside of a unified facility and requires a lot more communication and time from each individual specialist and the patient.
THE PATH OF CARE
It is very interesting that in the medical community, when scoliosis is diagnosed, and the patient and doctor opt for a conservative or natural approach, they are almost always referred to a surgeon, who manages care.
This is typically the path of care referral when scoliosis is present:
- The child is suspected of having scoliosis by a school practitioner, who then refers to a pediatrician for confirmation of the diagnosis.
- The pediatrician will confirm the diagnosis, and send the patient straight to an orthopedic surgeon.
- The orthopedic surgeon will manage treatment plans, before and through any plans of surgery.
This should concern any parent who understands the value of natural and conservative management of health. The patient is sent straight to a surgeon–whose job is to consult on and perform surgery–even if the patient prefers to avoid invasive procedures.
This should seem counterintuitive if the goal of effective treatment is to avoid invasive procedures and increase positive patient outcomes. If you are trying to have the least invasive treatment, then one would think that starting with a practitioner who specializes in natural (non-invasive) scoliosis treatment would be the patient’s first stop. A patient who is trying to avoid surgery, wouldn’t need their non-surgical treatment to be managed by a practitioner who specializes in scoliosis-specific surgical interventions, like a pediatric scoliosis surgeon, or an adult orthopedic surgeon who focuses on scoliosis.
With how specialized the medical practice of orthopedic surgery is, and how complicated scoliosis surgery is, it seems unlikely that a surgeon–who spent 12 years perfecting their skills in surgery and has continued to learn all the practices and techniques associated with the ever-changing practice of scoliosis surgery–would also be up-to-date with every natural scoliosis-specific treatment out there, like rehabilitation, therapy, exercise, and chiropractic care. Only a practitioner who specializes in natural scoliosis treatment would be able to do so, as surgeons have surgical treatments and methods to constantly keep up with, while also practicing surgery.
THE PATH OF TREATMENT
The presence of an intermediate stop between the primary care provider and a scoliosis-specialized surgeon could be the fix for the currently flawed system.
The path of treatment and referral could be as follows:
First, a primary care provider should screen for scoliotic curvature and rotation, and they should refer to a doctor specializing in conservative scoliosis treatment.
Secondly, a doctor specializing in conservative scoliosis treatment can try natural approaches so that any time between diagnosis and a possible surgery is spent reducing the curve or slowing progression, rather than waiting while it worsens (as orthopedic surgeons often do), or eliminating the need for surgery at all.
Lastly, and only if the scoliosis is unresponsive (or not responsive enough) to conservative treatment, the patient can be referred to a scoliosis-specific surgeon, who can help the patient decide if a more invasive treatment approach is right for them.
In the United States, this is not the typical experience of a scoliosis patient. They are typically referred to a surgeon right away, who is an expert in surgical intervention, but not conservative treatment. With no bad intentions, but often plenty of ignorance of conservative methods, the surgeon often recommends that the patient do little to nothing until the curve is “bad enough” to warrant their specialty of treatment–surgery.
This fragmentation and difference in expertise in the conservative treatment approach create a division between those who believe in its efficacy and the non-believers because people categorize all conservative treatments as having the same caliber of effectiveness. It is similar to the time in the past when most of the world thought a plane could never fly. This was half true, as poorly designed planes would have never gotten off the ground. However, a properly designed plane could fly and has done so for many years since. This is also true with conservative scoliosis treatment, as poorly designed conservative treatment plans have no chance of working, whereas a properly designed program can work, and has worked for many patients.
This is why there is such a low success rate of conservative treatment of scoliosis in the United States currently–the wrong doctor is put in charge of managing the conservative treatment options. A surgeon will not be an expert on all things that can prevent the need for surgery. They will instead be an expert on surgery, highlighting why patients under their care are often led down that treatment path. The natural treatment path is effective when coordinated and offered to patients right away.
The good news about the health care system in the United States is that patients are often presented with choices in their care. When facing a diagnosis of scoliosis, patients (and their families) can choose between traditional or natural (conservative) care.
The traditional method most often involves observation, one-size-fits-most bracing, and surgical intervention. This observation is often just to monitor when the patient will be able to undergo surgery due to progression, not to reduce curvature. It also often ends with a spinal fusion surgery, where hardware is used to force spinal vertebrae to join together in the hope it reduces the curvature.
The less-invasive path of natural treatment combines multiple specialties, including therapy, exercise, bracing, rehabilitation, and chiropractic care. The only down-side to this approach is that if you follow the referrals from the primary care provider, this plan is often fragmented because it is managed by a surgeon, not a non-invasive scoliosis-specific specialist.
The best advice to follow, for any medical issue that one seeks treatment for, is to always ensure that the practitioner chosen to manage treatment specializes in that condition. To see real results, and give patients the best care possible, find practitioners with the most education and training–making them experts in that condition. Only someone who specializes in a condition will be completely up-to-date on the latest research and advancements related to it.
While it’s true that the natural approach can prove beneficial for patients in terms of effectiveness and the possibility of avoiding invasive surgery, it has a chance of failing when improperly managed. Because the natural approach’s premise is to combine multiple treatments, if these treatments are not working together, or even worse are working against each other, then they are sure to be much less effective, if they do anything at all. In order for natural treatment methods to function properly and produce the kind of positive results they have for many other scoliosis patients, treatment plans involving multi-modal approaches need to be managed by a single practitioner (or as few practitioners as possible), who specializes in scoliosis management.