Health Matters

Functional Scoliosis – a hidden cause of future back injury!

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Scoliosis can cause much back pain. Scoliosis occurs when the spine (viewed from behind) isn’t straight, but instead deviates left or right at one or more points along its length.  Very few people have a perfectly straight spine. Most of us will have a very slight amount of deviation here or there, usually without symptoms.

There are two main sub-types of scoliosis: functional & structural.

Functional scoliosis occurs when the structure of vertebrae and discs are normal, but a difference in “functional” muscle length or tightness occurs between muscles on the left & right sides of the spine, which acts to pull the spinal column out of vertical alignment and create an abnormal curvature. For example:

  1. The over development &/or shortening of muscles on one side of the body from:
    1. playing one sided sports (golf, tennis, etc),
    2. differences in leg length,
    3. altered movement while compensating for chronic or acute pain, or
  2. Muscle spasms due to:
    1. injury on or around the spine,
    2. altered nerve flow to muscles,
    3. inflammatory conditions, e.g. appendicitis,

can lead to functional scoliosis.

Under such conditions the contracted (spasming) muscles on one side of the body pull the vertebra away from the midline to produce scoliosis. However, since no structural problem exists, when affected muscles return to normal length through treatment or stretching, scoliosis disappears.

Treating functional scoliosis may be as simple as playing two sided sports or getting an orthotic to even up leg lengths. However, when muscles have been contracted for a longer period of time, they can become stressed, slightly swollen (knots) and painful, with their surrounding connective tissue sheaves much shortened. Such muscles do not simply come back to their ideal length.

Chronically shortened muscles in and around a slightly scoliotic spine can result in continual and excessive ‘wear & tear’ to vertebrae and discs, leading to premature degeneration of both. The result may be eventual disc rupture, or vertebral crush injuries. This wear & tear happens even from the normal routine bending or twisting movements that we do every day.

Many acute back injuries result from accumulation of such small injuries. These chronically weaken vertebral tissue. Then one final trigger, like a heavy lift, means I see many tradies that never needed to have a back injury at all, had they kept their back muscles loose & spine straight.

To allow such chronically shortened muscles to return to optimal length and condition, simple stretching may not be enough. Here is where specific treatments such as ‘muscle elongation therapy’ (MET) and nutrition as practiced at our clinic can help. Treatment promotes healing, restoring affected tissue to optimal condition, and helps prevent further injury.

Call the clinic if you’d like to learn more. Next month we will talk about Structural Scoliosis

Article Written + Submitted by:

Andreas Klein Nutritionist + Remedial Therapist from Beautiful Health + Wellness
P: 0418 166 269

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