Vertebral Canal Length Usually Shorter in Scoliosis

Idiopathic scoliosis involves a rotation of vertebral bodies toward the convexity of the curve. But how does this rotation affect the size and shape of the vertebral canal? To answer this question, researchers in Scotland measured the axial length of the vertebral canal and the anterior aspect of the vertebrae in 36 skeletons: 8 with normal spines, 13 with kyphosis, and 15 with probable idiopathic scoliosis.

Compared with vertebral length, the vertebral canal of skeletons with scoliosis was short.  "The results are consistent with a conceivable hypothesis that in some patients with idiopathic scoliosis, there may be impaired growth in the length of the spinal cord, the posterior elements are tethered, and as the vertebral bodies continue to grow, they become lordotic and then rotate," wrote the study's authors.

Porter RW   Idiopathic scoliosis: the relation between the vertebral canal and the vertebral bodies   Spine 2000 (Jun 1);   25 (11):   1360-1366

Popular Scoliosis Test Inadequate

The Adam's forward-bending test, a popular evaluation technique used for school scoliosis screenings, "cannot be considered a safe diagnostic criterion for the early detection of scoliosis," say researchers in the journal Spine. According to the report, the forward-bending test fails to detect a significant number of scoliosis cases, especially when it is used as the sole screening Investigators collected data on 2,700 students who underwent scoliosis screening in 1987. All subjects were aged 8 - 16 years at the time of the screenings, which included the Adam's forward-bending test, Moire topography, scoliometer measures and humpometer measures. At 10-year follow-up, the researchers determined that the forward bending test produced five false negative results.

The article concluded that, "The wide-spread use of school scoliosis screening with the use of the forward-bending test must be questioned." Instead, the study's authors suggest that back-shape analysis methods be used to look for scoliosis in school-aged youngsters.

Karachalios, T, Sofianos J, Roidis N, Sapkas G, Korres D, Nikolopoulos K   Ten-year follow-up evaluation of a school screening program for scoliosis. Is the forward-bending test an accurate diagnostic criterion for the screening of scoliosis?   Spine 1999 (Nov 15);   24 (22):   2318-2324

In-School Scoliosis Screening Not Effective

How effective are school-based screening programs for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis? To answer this question, researchers sifted through data on 2,242 subjects who had attended kindergarten or first grade in Rochester, Minnesota between 1979 and 1982. All subjects underwent annual scoliosis screenings in grades 5 through 9.

A total of 92 children were referred for further evaluation, although only 74% of these students received a chiropractic or medical follow-up examination. Altogether, 27 of the students referred for evaluation were diagnosed with scoliosis by age 19. However, only five of these subjects were treated for the disorder. The study's authors concluded that in-school scoliosis screening is not effective. Instead, they stress that parents and health care practitioners should monitor pediatric patients for signs of scoliosis. The report was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Yawn BP, Yawn RA, Hodge D, Kurland M, Shaughnessy WJ, Ilstrup D, Jacobsen SJ   A population-based study of school scoliosis screening   JAMA 1999 (Oct 20);   282 (15):   1427-1432


A paper in the European Spine Journal evaluated school children. During the course of the five year study, scientists followed 839 children with idiopathic scoliosis (measuring at least 10 degrees).

The researchers outlines several risk factors for curve progression. In general, more pronounced curves had a greater tendency to advance than less seevere curves. Girls were more likely than boys to experience curve progression, especially prior to onset of menses. Curve pattern was a major predictor of advancement. Girls with right thoracic and double curves were morem likely to develop increased curvature. Among boys, right lumbar curves indicated a higher risk of progression. Left thoracic curves in both sexes were less likely to advance.

Soucacos PN, Zacharis K, Gelalis J, Soultanis K, Kalos N, Beris A, Xenakis T, Johnson EO   Assessment of curve progression in idiopathic scoliosis   Eur Spine J. 1998;   7 (4):   270-277

Chiropractic and Scoliosis

Children with mild scoliosis treated with chiropractic adjustments have shown a reduction in their spinal curvature, according to the findings of a three-year, $143,000 study funded by the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research.

This cohort study was conducted by Charles "Skip" Lantz, DC, PhD, director of research of Life Chiropractic College West, and his associates. The researchers were studying the effects of chiropractic full-spine adjustive procedures, heel-lifts, and postural counseling on children 9-15 years old with mild idiopathic scoliosis (less than 20 degrees of curvature, with no complicating conditions).

Study on Chiropractic Care for Adolescent Scoliosis is Encouraging
Dynamic Chiropractic Archives ~ January 27, 1997

Children and Scoliosis

A recent study using sophisticated measuring devices and advanced computer analysis found a significant difference in gait between normal subjects and those with scoliosis.6 This was most noticeable in the medial-lateral component of gait, indicating problems with pronation and supination control. They observed that the "...differences between the scoliosis and the control group, together with previously reported abnormalities of torsion in the tibia and femur and the hypothesis of pelvic rotation, suggests these are primary mechanisms of the cause of idiopathic scoliosis."

These researchers believe that gait asymmetry could very well be the underlying cause of the balance and coordination problems that result in a curved spine. They conclude: "Patients with scoliosis exhibit balance problems during the stance phase of gait and have significant asymmetry in the frequency characteristics. These findings could be a primary effect that contributes to the medial-lateral deformity of the spine and its initiation and progression."

Muscular imbalances and recurrent subluxations may develop secondary to a child's postural habits. Asymmetrical development of musculature used frequently in a sport can also be the source of a nonstructural scoliosis. These curves are usually mild, and will correct rapidly with education, corrective exercises and chiropractic treatment.

Children and Scoliosis
Dynamic Chiropractic Archives - February 12, 2001