Scoliosis impacts infants, adolescents, and adults worldwide with little regard to race or socio-economic status. The primary age of onset for scoliosis is 10-15 years old, occurring equally among both genders. However, females are eight times more likely to progress to a curve magnitude that requires treatment.

Scoliosis can impact the quality of life with limited activity, pain, reduced respiratory function, or diminished self-esteem.

The vast majority of people with this condition are not expected to require treatment. The problem is we do not know who will get it, why they get it, which will progress, or how far they will progress.

Despite physicians trying to treat this spinal deformity for centuries, 85% of the cases are classified as idiopathic. Consequently, a scoliosis patient’s life is exacerbated by many unknowns, and treatments therefore that are often ineffective, invasive, and/or costly. Scoliosis patients also have increased health risks due to frequent x-ray exposure.

Scoliosis is a multifactorial disorder, which requires multidisciplinary research and treatment.

Chiropractic and Scoliosis

Charles A. Lantz, D.C., Ph.D. is Director of Research at the Life Chiropractic College West in San Lorenzo, California. Dr. Lantz and his colleagues are currently conducting a scoliosis research project to explore the effectiveness of chiropractic in the management of children ages 9-15 with mild to moderate scoliosis (less than 25″ curve). This is the first clinical trial ever to look at the effect of chiropractic on scoliosis.

NSF first met Dr. Lantz. and his associate Jasper Chen, D.C. in conjunction with the 1994 Northern California Spine Conference. This was the beginning of a series of dialogs regarding the need for scientifically valid information about chiropractic treatment of scoliosis and the value of working together with the Scoliosis Research Society to enhance the credibility and acceptance of the design and outcomes of such a study. We applaud Dr. Lantz in his efforts to spear- head a major randomized controlled trial with a collaborative team which includes S.R.S. members, Dr. William Bunnell, Loma Linda University; Dr. Ronald Blackman, Kaiser Hospital, Oakland; Dr. Peter Slabaugh, Children’s Hospital, Oakland; and Dr. Serena Hu, U.C. San Francisco.

“Virtually no formal research exists documenting chiropractic’s effectiveness in managing scoliosis. We are excited about the potential benefits of this study and we believe the scoliosis community is well served by a collaborative effort such as this. This is perhaps best expressed in their project grant application, “Given that chiropractic has long claimed success in treating patients with mild scoliosis, it seems reasonable and timely to validate the extent to which that claim is valid.”

In his in-depth article titled Conservative Management of Scoliosis which was published in the October 1994 issue of Chiropractic: The Journal of Chiropractic: Research and Clinical Investigation, Volume 9, Number 4, Dr. Lantz underscores the need for large randomized clinical trials for both adolescents and adults with scoliosis:

“Chiropractic management of scoliosis has classically consisted of spinal adjustments or manipulation sometimes augmented with exercise and postural counseling, as well as heel lifts. Electrical stimulation has recently come into the chiropractic armamentarium as well. Virtually no formal research exists documenting chiropractic’s effectiveness in managing scoliosis, although anecdotal reports abound. Several well-conducted case studies suggest that chiropractic is, indeed, effective in managing scoliotic curves, but the definitive studies are lacking. It is widely stated that chiropractic care is effective in alleviating the pain and discomfort associated with adult scoliosis, however, no studies to date have adequately documented this effect.”

Dr. Lantz concludes his article by pointing out the need for immediate attention by the Chiropractic community to questions such as, “Should adults with scoliosis be treated in the same way as adolescents or juveniles with scoliosis? What are the indications for care, and what types of care are most suited to which types of scoliosis for which age groups?”

Scoliosis often seems to be a condition which has more questions than answers. This appears to apply to the issue of chiropractic management of scoliosis as well. We are grateful for Dr. Lantz and others like him who are dedicated to asking the questions and committed to finding the answers.