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 Bernard S. Burton DC PA

Chiropractic Physician • Clinical Nutritionist • Certified Acupuncturist


What is it?

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine in the side-to-side direction.  There are two main types of scoliosis, functional and structural.  Basically the functional type will show an apparent improvement with bending whereas the structural type will not. The type that most parents are concerned with is the structural type called idiopathic scoliosis, which means of unknown cause.       Idiopathic scoliosis comprises 80% of the structural scoliosis.  This is the type, which can progress from adolescence to have serious health consequences. This occurs in between 2 to 5 % of the population (4) and occurs mostly during adolescence.  Girls are 5 to 8 times more likely for the scoliosis to increase in severity.


Is it serious?

Yes, the child may not exhibit pain early on since it is a slow progressive disorder, but the chronic pain usually occurs later in life due to the arthritis and degeneration from the dysfunctional joints of the spine and unequal biomechanical stresses.  The spinal curvature can progress to the point that it compromises the lungs and heart.  Curvature this bad requires surgery to fuse the vertebra into place.  Fortunately this doesn’t occur very often, but children need to be examined periodically.   The screening tests are quite simple and so they should be done on every child up until the age of maturity.


What are the signs of scoliosis?

1. One shoulder may be higher than the other.

2. One shoulder blade may be higher or more prominent than the other.

3. There may be more space between the arm and the body on one side, when the arms are hanging loosely at the side.

4. One hip may appear more prominent or higher than the other.

5. The head is not centered over the pelvis.

6. Examine the person from the rear while they bend forward until the spine is horizontal.  One side of the back may appear higher than the other.


Are there any theories as to why it occurs?


Idiopathic scoliosis may result from asymmetric weakness of the vertebral muscles, unlevel pelvis, or misaligned vertebra (2)(3).   There is some research that correlates to handedness (right vs. left), which indicates a muscle weakness correlation.  Their are some genetic and heredity correlations.  There is also some research that shows a nutritional component, and since this is primarily with adolescent girls, there may even be a hormonal component.  Whatever the reason, the treatment approach should consider as many of the causes as possible.


What should you do if you suspect your child has scoliosis?


Seek professional help, the chiropractor or the orthopedist.  If it progresses to a large degree, it may be necessary for mechanical bracing or even surgery.   Either of these professionals can evaluate the necessary X-rays.  The surgery can be performed by an experienced orthopedist.   Conservative treatment can be performed in mild to moderate cases using manipulation, electrical muscle stimulation, heel lifts, specific exercises, kinesiology, and various approaches (6).  Research is necessary to determine the benefits of the conservative treatments.  The best research is a study with a large number or participants that would require many children to be left untreated as a control group.  Since this would be cruel to the children, definitive research may never be performed.  Therefore, it is best for the parents to become as knowledgeable as possible to make the best decision for their child.


Of particular note:

There is a caveat to the above statement.  There is a significant bias in some scoliosis societies.  In fact, the Scoliosis Research Society has no chiropractors.  Imagine a society based on the improvement of spinal curvature, which does not have any members of the second largest health physician profession in the country whose primary purpose, is to align the spine.



(1) Clinically Oriented Anatomy, 2nd Edition, Kieth L. Moore, Ph.D., F.I.A.C., Williams & Wilkens, 1985. Pgs568-569.
(2) Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, 6th Edition, Gerald J. Tortora & Nicholas P. Anagnostakos, Harper & Row, 1990.  Pg. 187
(3) Textbook of Clinical Chiropractic, A Specific Biomechanical Approach.    Gregory Plaugher, editor.  Williams and Wilkens 1993, pgs 266-278.
(4) Fundamentals of Orthopedics, 3rd Edition.   John J. Gartland, M.D. , W.B. Saunders Company

1979. Pgs.339-343.



Dr. Bernard S. Burton DC PA, is a Chiropractic Physician, Clinical Nutritionist, Craniopath, and Acupuncturist in Sunrise, utilizing Applied Kinesiology in his practice.  He is located at 2045 N. University Drive, Sunrise,  FL   33322, in the Sunset Square Plaza, which is at the Southwest corner of Sunset Strip and University Drive.  He can be reached at (954) 742-0332,  FAX (954) 742-7344 or  www.betterbacks.com.


Applied Kinesiology (AK) is a system for evaluating body function.  It was developed within the Chiropractic Profession and utilizes manual muscle testing, clinical expertise, and lab tests, to diagnose function problems which can then be treated with Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Nutrition, Deep- Tissue Stimulation, Craniosacral work, as well as a variety of other techniques.   This type of muscle testing has been termed “Functional Neurology”.