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The Treatment of Scoliosis through Upper Cervical Chiropractic

Scoliosis is when your spine is not straight and instead has a curve. Normally, the spine has curves at the top of the shoulder and lower back. But if your spine curves from side to side or forms an “S” or “C” shape, it could mean you have scoliosis.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), about 80 percent of scoliosis cases have no known cause.

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Doctors often diagnose this condition in children before they turn 7 years old. When there is a known cause, it can be due to:

· Problems with how the spine formed before birth

· Issues with the nerves in the body

· Genetic conditions

Scoliosis can affect anyone, but it mostly happens in children. If you have scoliosis, you may need to see a doctor regularly for checkups. In severe cases, you might have to wear a special brace on your back or even have surgery. The decision for treatment depends on how much your spine is curved.

In the United States alone, around 3 million cases of scoliosis are diagnosed every year. So, it’s a very common condition that affects the spine. If you have scoliosis, there are a few things you should know. First, it’s not always clear why scoliosis happens. About 80% of cases are called idiopathic, which means there’s no known cause. Second, there is hope for treatment, and surgery is rarely necessary.

We’ll look at a real-life example that connects scoliosis with problems in the upper neck area. Then we’ll talk about why this connection exists.

Types of scoliosis

The biggest group of scoliosis is called idiopathic scoliosis, which means there’s no known cause for these cases. Idiopathic scoliosis is divided into different age groups:

· Infant: 0 to 3 years old

· Juvenile: 4 to 10 years old

· Adolescent: 11 to 18 years old

· Adult: 18 years old and above

Among these, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type, according to the AANS.

When researchers do know the cause of certain types of scoliosis, they classify them as:

· Congenital: This means the spinal deformities are visible at birth.

· Neurological: When abnormalities in the nerves affect the muscles in the spine.

Scoliosis can also be classified as either structural or nonstructural. In structural scoliosis, the curve in the spine is caused by a disease, injury, or birth defect, and it stays permanent.

Nonstructural scoliosis refers to temporary curves that can be corrected.

Symptoms of scoliosis

The symptoms of scoliosis can vary depending on how severe it is. Some common symptoms of scoliosis include:

· One shoulder blade higher than the other

· One shoulder blade that sticks out more than the other

· Hips that are not level or uneven

· The spine appearing twisted or rotated

· Difficulty breathing due to less space in the chest for the lungs to expand

· Back pain

What causes scoliosis?

The exact cause of scoliosis is often unknown. However, doctors may identify some common causes, which can include:

· Cerebral palsy: This refers to a group of disorders that affect the nervous system and can impact movement, learning, hearing, seeing, and thinking.

· Muscular dystrophy: This refers to a group of genetic disorders that lead to muscle weakness.

· Birth defects affecting spinal bones: Examples include conditions like spina bifida, which affect the spinal bones of infants.

· Spinal injuries or infections: Injuries or infections that affect the spine can contribute to scoliosis.

Additionally, having a family history of scoliosis increases the likelihood of developing the condition. It’s worth noting that individuals assigned female at birth (people with a vagina) are more likely to experience a more severe form of scoliosis compared to those assigned male at birth (people with a penis).

How does the upper cervical spine affect scoliosis?

Genetics play a big part in scoliosis, but it can also happen if a child gets hurt or has an accident that affects their head and neck. This can make the bones in the upper neck go out of place.

When the bones in the upper neck are pushed out of alignment when a child is young, it can affect how the spine grows. If one or more bones in the spine are wedged on one side, the head will have to tilt a bit to compensate. If this isn’t fixed right away, the spine will keep growing but in a twisted and rotated way. It gets worse because the muscles along the spine will also become imbalanced, making the problem even more serious.

Review of A scoliosis case study

In 2010, a 15-year-old girl sought help from an upper cervical chiropractor because she had a 44-degree curve in her spine, which was measured using the Cobb scale. (When the curve is over 10 degrees, it’s considered important to get medical care). The girl’s x-rays and physical examination showed that she had a misalignment in her upper neck.

She received care for 4.5 years, and the treatment involved gentle adjustments to her neck. Unlike traditional chiropractic care that involves cracking or twisting the spine, upper cervical chiropractic is gentle and doesn’t include those movements. Throughout the 4.5 years, the girl had a total of 35 visits for upper cervical care.

However, she only received adjustments during 5 out of the 35 visits. Upper cervical practitioners only provide adjustments when necessary. Because the gentle adjustments tend to hold the atlas (the first vertebra in the neck) in place for a longer time, adjustments can be spaced further apart based on how well the patient’s adjustments hold.

Results of the study

The patient had been experiencing pain in her lower back as well. After a little over two years of receiving care, specifically after the fourth adjustment, the patient reported that her lower back pain had completely gone away. By the end of the 4.5-year period, the degree of scoliosis had reduced from 44 degrees to 25 degrees. Though still notable, this improvement brought the patient below the level where surgery would typically be recommended by doctors.

Now, how does adjusting the top bone in the spine lead to such changes in the entire back?

The connection between the atlas and the health of your spine

The top bone in the spine is called the atlas. It has the important job of balancing the head, which weighs around 12 pounds. When the atlas is slightly misaligned, it disrupts the head’s balance. To compensate for this, the body quickly makes adjustments, which then affects the rest of the spine in a chain reaction.

The misalignment can extend to the rest of the neck, causing stress that may lead to premature wearing of the discs between the vertebrae. This can result in neck arthritis, although not all atlas misalignments cause neck pain, and the effects are not limited to the neck alone.

To compensate for the neck misalignment, one shoulder tends to drop, which can be noticeable when standing straight in front of a mirror. As the misalignment continues down the spine, it can cause similar disc problems in other areas. When it reaches the lower spine, it can lead to misaligned hips. That’s why many people with an atlas misalignment also have one leg shorter than the other.

Problems in the lower spine can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, leading to sciatica. As a result, the entire spine is affected. With shoulders at different heights, hips and legs of unequal lengths, it creates conditions favorable for scoliosis. Therefore, it makes sense that correcting the problem at the source can help restore balance and potentially avoid the need for invasive surgery.

How does upper cervical chiropractic help in the treatment of scoliosis?

Upper Cervical Chiropractic is beneficial for scoliosis because it focuses on the neck vertebrae, which directly affect the rest of your spine. While many people are aware that chiropractic care can help with scoliosis, not everyone understands why.

Adjusting the upper cervical vertebrae brings about changes in the functioning of the cerebellum, which impacts how your body processes and responds to sensory information. This can lead to improved balance, coordination, and reduced muscle tension overall. Additionally, many patients with scoliosis who experience headaches or migraines have reported relief through Upper Cervical chiropractic care. If you’ve been dealing with ongoing discomfort and pain, it’s worth reaching out to a reputable upper cervical chiropractor for scoliosis.

Upper cervical chiropractor reviewing a thermographic spinal analysis

To better assess the severity of your scoliosis, your upper cervical chiropractor will conduct a thorough examination of your upper cervical spine. This typically involves using cone-beam computed tomography and/or X-rays to pinpoint any misalignments in the vertebrae.

Armed with the results from the initial assessment, your upper cervical chiropractor will employ gentle and precise correction techniques to gradually restore the vertebrae to their natural position. Unlike traditional chiropractic treatments, this process is completely painless and does not involve any painful twisting or cracking.


The long-term outlook for scoliosis depends on how severe the curve is. Mild to moderate cases typically don’t disrupt everyday activities and functions. However, individuals with severe scoliosis may face physical limitations.

Living with scoliosis can be challenging. If you’re seeking assistance in managing your scoliosis, joining a support group could be beneficial. Support groups provide an opportunity to connect with others who are going through similar experiences. You can find encouragement and receive advice on dealing with the condition in your daily life.

A good starting point for finding resources is the National Scoliosis Foundation (NSF). They offer valuable information and support for individuals with scoliosis.


Dr. Berner does not diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical diseases or conditions; instead, he analyzes and corrects the structure of his patients with Foundational Correction to improve their overall quality of life. He works with their physicians, who regulate their medications. This blog post is not designed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services to you or any other individual. The information provided in this post or through linkages to other sites is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, consultation, or the advice of your physician or another healthcare provider. Foundation Chiropractic and Dr. Brett Berner are not liable or responsible for any advice, the course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other information, services, or product you obtain through this article or others.

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