The Spinal Column: Straight talk about Scoliosis

Dr. Jim Schaffer
Dr. Jim Schaffer

I read a lot. I think I admitted before that I am a research junkie. I can’t help it. I should be sleeping at night, but I find myself flipping through my iPad scouring Google, reading about new research articles that have been published. My wife nudges me saying, “It’s late. You need your beauty sleep. The light from your iPad is keeping me up.” (Well, I can’t argue about the first two statements, but do you think maybe last one is just intended to trick me into compliance?!) get my point. I spend time reading research.

This week I was reading a published research report titled, The Schroth Method. The Schroth family is three generations in to their research. What they are offering is a series of exercises to help people who are afflicted with Scoliosis. They offer exercises that work with “asymmetrical” muscles surrounding the spine and pelvis.

If we are looking at a person’s back, you will notice that there are matching muscles on either side of the spine. Those muscles should be even, balanced, of the same size and strength. Asymmetrical means they are not even.


In Scoliosis we find asymmetrical muscles that are contributing to the scoliosis.

The Schroth Method works to improve the muscle balance.

I agree. The muscles need to be equal. Balance is of great importance. When we are speaking of Scoliosis and muscle imbalance, we see that the weaker of the two muscles cannot maintain its side of the load. The stronger muscle is pulling harder. That pull is pulling at the spine. Curving it. The larger muscle literally pulls the spine downward on one side creating what is commonly referred to as a “C” curve.

This curve often happens low on the spine or pelvis area. We often see Scoliosis patients whose entire spine is curved toward the “C.” There are also patients whose curve is created from the mid back and up. And still others who have a curve in their neck.

I hope you don’t mind that I have a story to illustrate this.

One time I had my boys out on a stream, fishing. Jimmy, the older of the two, assures me he knows what he is doing and will cast out alone. This is OK with me because now I can focus on getting his younger brother, Luke’s hook loaded and out into the stream. Things go well with Luke so I turn my attention back to Jimmy. He was having a bit of difficulty! He had cast his line out, but into an overhead branch never reaching the water and was now reeling and reeling that branch into him!

Since that moment I have a new visual for Scoliosis.

So the Scoliosis cycle begins and gradually worsens under the asymmetrical loads.

So far in this research I like what I am reading.

Until...I get to the next paragraph. I am not kidding. This is what the text read, “How the spine initially begins to twist and curve is not important, the recognition of the imbalance is what is important.”


They feel it doesn’t matter what started the process?

Wouldn’t the process repeat if itself if the source is not found? Aren’t we even interested anymore in the origination of the problem so we can actually correct that? Not just mask it?

I apologize if I sound a bit heated here, but Spinal Column readers know chiropractors are totally, 100 percent interested in the cause! The cause of any disease or illness or structural imbalance!

That is always the BIG question. What/where is the cause of the problem. In this case why did the spine begin to twist and or curve?

I scoured the rest of the paper hoping for some research or facts about the cause to no avail.

Chiropractors have been treating patients with scoliosis for more than 100 years. A chiropractor’s job is to return spinal bones to their correct position. We are also trained to focus on the cause of the problem. Why are the bones out of position in the first place?

In the case of Scoliosis we need to start our story at the top. Literally, we need to look to the brain. The brain, as we know, controls everything in our body. Our organs, cells, tissues, systems and yes…the muscles - like the ones we have been discussing.

The brain does this by sending messages down the spinal cord and out to the body through the “holes” or spaces between each of the spinal bones…. via nerves.

When your spinal bones are neatly lined up the “holes” between the bones are the same sizes. They are equal on both sides.

Well then...what happens if the bones are not correctly lined up? What if one is misaligned? Twisted, rotated, cocked? The spinal bones are meant to move like this. They are also intended to return to their correct position. But sometimes they don’t for a variety of reasons. (We will save that for another article.) When the bones do not return to their correct position they begin to put pressure on the nerve that is coming out through the hole.

“So what?,” you say. What’s pressure on a nerve have to do with Scoliosis?

I have an answer for that...actually two answers…..because one of two things can happen.

The first possible effect of pressure on the nerve is that the nerve becomes irritated and starts to send “hyperactive” nerve impulses. Yes! The nerve starts sending its impulses too fast…too many. The impulses are the communications coming from the brain, down the spinal cord, out to the body through this nerve. If the nerve is sending impulses in a hyperactive manner, the result to the receiving muscle is that it works much harder than it’s twin on the other side. Like any muscle we exercise, it gets bigger and stronger, leaving its partner muscle lagging behind.

The second possible side effect of pressure on the message carrying nerve is hypo-activity. This is the exact opposite response. The impulses diminish. They are slower. The muscle becomes weak and does not work as hard.

So my point is that there is always a cause. The cause here is that the nervous system is not able to function correctly due to pressure on the nerves. Yes, the muscles do play a major role as a contributing factor in the gradual increase of the “C” curve and Scoliosis.

But what we need to do is to correct the problem, not the side effect.

A chiropractor will replace the bone or bones that are out of alignment, therefore creating equal balance and room for the nerves on both sides of the spine to function correctly and evenly. The muscles will then start to correct as well. And with the help of chiropractic adjustments the spine can return to its correct, upright position.

The human body is an amazing machine that can and does heal itself given the chance!

I am always amazed by this and hope you are too.

Go to our Facebook page to ask or read comments about The Spinal Column. I’d be happy to talk with you more.

See you next week.

Until then...enjoy the weather!

Dr. Jim

Dr. Jim Schaffer, of Kimberton Chiropractic in Phoenixville, is a weekly contributor to The Phoenix. 484-921-4936

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