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Ease Scoliosis with TCM

What is scoliosis?


          Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that often appears like an S or C shape. It is most common in adolescents but can also occur in adults. Mild scoliosis is usually not a serious problem, but some severe scoliosis can reduce lung capacity and lead to other health complications (Mayo Clinic, 2022).

How does scoliosis happen?

Aging, traumatic injuries, and disorders of congenital, neurological, musculoskeletal, and connective tissue can all cause scoliosis (Choi, Jo, Park, Sung, et al., 2020).

  • Idiopathic scoliosis: the most common type, affecting 8 out of 10 individuals. In these cases, the cause is unknown and cannot be treated. 

  • Neurological conditions that can cause scoliosis (NHS Inform, 2023): 

    • Cerebral palsy: affects the brain and nerves

    • Muscular dystrophy: a genetic disorder that causes muscle weakness

    • Neurofibromatosis: a genetic condition that causes the growth of benign tumors

  • Congenital scoliosis: babies born with scoliosis which is caused by abnormal development of the bones in the spine.

  • Degenerative scoliosis: is caused by gradual spine deterioration over time (NHS Inform, 2023).

What are the symptoms of scoliosis?


          Common symptoms of scoliosis include uneven shoulders, hips, and shoulder blades (Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d.). Less common symptoms include leg length discrepancy and impaired seating posture, resulting in lower quality of life than healthy individuals (Choi, Jo, Park, Sung, et al., 2020). Symptoms not often associated with idiopathic scoliosis include back pain, leg pain, and changes in bowel and bladder habits (Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d.).

What are the causes of scoliosis in Oriental Medicine?

          Oriental Medicine practitioners believe that low back pain from scoliosis is caused by a deficiency in Kidney function, which can lead to stagnation of Qi and blood. External pathogens, such as wind, cold, dampness, and heat, can also invade the back, weaken the immune system, and impede the free flow of Qi and blood, leading to low back pain (Gypson & Morse, n.d.). Poor diet, excessive strain on muscles, and insufficient rest can also contribute to low back pain from scoliosis by causing insufficiency of Qi or blood and stagnation of flow throughout the meridians in the body.

What can Oriental Medicine do to treat scoliosis?

          Acupuncture can help reduce musculoskeletal pain due to muscular imbalances and improve posture in people with scoliosis. Acupuncture restores normal movement and function (Arapahoe Chiropractic & Acupuncture Center, n.d.). Inserting needles into specific points along the meridians can remove any blockages of energy flow in the body (Scoliosis SOS Clinic, 2016). Specific acupuncture points on the spine, back, and Kidney and Bladder meridians are used to treat scoliosis. Acupuncture can also help improve general well-being and energy levels (Arapahoe Chiropractic & Acupuncture Center, n.d.). 


          Five acupressure points for treating scoliosis: reduce pain, improve posture, and strengthen the spine, include (Sze, 2022): 

  • Small Intestine-3 (SI-3): Located on the hand. SI-3 can help shrink the abdomen and straighten the spine.

  • Ren-17 (Conception Vessel-17): Located at the center point of the chest. Ren-17 plays an important role in supporting any scoliosis-related deformities, allowing patients to walk more steadily.

  • GV-4 (Governing Vessel-4): Located in the middle of the spine behind the belly button. GV-4 can help treat chronic spine pain.

  • KI-1 (Kidney-1): Located in the feet. KI-1 can help patients with scoliosis with flat feet by preventing the forefoot arch from collapsing.

  • M-BW-35 (Hua Tuo Jia Ji/Hua Tuo Spine Ridge Edges): A cluster of 34 pressure points running along the spine. M-BW-35 strengthens the connection between the muscular and skeletal systems.


          Traditional Chinese herbs are used to reduce scoliosis Pain and inflammation, including: 

  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa): A powerful anti-inflammatory herb. Turmeric can help reduce chronic muscle pain from scoliosis. 

  • Curcumin (the active compound in turmeric): Curcumin is a natural therapeutic agent that has been shown to be effective in treating pain disorders such as diabetic neuropathy, burn pain, osteoarthritis, and delayed muscle soreness (MW, Strauchman, Fleischman, 2015). 

  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Another anti-inflammatory and antibiotic herb. Thyme can prevent inflammation, boost the immune system, and eliminate the buildup of pathogens (HV Holistic, n.d.). 


          Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapy that uses heat from burning mugwort to warm the body and promote healing. Moxibustion is a safe and effective treatment for lower back pain from scoliosis. It can be used alone or with other therapies, such as acupuncture and physical therapy.

Moxibustion works by improving Liver and Kidney Deficiency, Qi and blood Deficiency, trauma, and strain (Zhu, Xiong, Chen, Tang, et al., 2020): 

  • Warming the meridians, channels that carry energy, Qi, throughout the body.

  • Dispelling cold and dampness, which can contribute to pain and inflammation (Zhu, Xiong, Chen, Tang, et al., 2020)

  • Restoring balance to the Liver and Kidney, two important organs in TCM involved in pain management.

  • Improving Qi and Blood circulation can help nourish the muscles and joints.


          Cupping is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapy that uses cups to create a suction effect on the skin. This suction effect can help to improve muscle tightness, reduce trigger-point areas, and bring new blood circulation to promote healing. Cupping works by:

  • Stretching the muscles and connective tissue under the cup, which can help to relieve muscle tension (Simple Wellness, 2020). 

  • Increasing blood flow to the area, which can help to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the tissues and remove waste products.

  • Stimulating the release of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers.

          Cupping is effective in treating various conditions, including scoliosis. A study found that cupping effectively improved muscle tightness and pain in people with scoliosis. Combining acupuncture and cupping can also help correct the abnormal curvature of the spine and thoracic back pain in adult idiopathic scoliosis (Boeland, et al., 2020). Thunder-fire moxibustion, which has a more substantial effect than general moxibustion, can promote peripheral blood circulation and relieve blood stasis (Zhang, et al., 2022). It is a safe and effective scoliosis treatment that can help improve symptoms and quality of life.


          Staying active and exercising is a vital lifestyle recommendation for a strong core and flexibility, including (Sager, 2020): 

  • Yoga, pilates, and swimming involve stretching and deep breathing. 

  • Core-strengthening activities such as mountain biking and running.  

These exercises can help to:

  • Improve posture

  • Reduce pain

  • Increase range of motion

  • Improve balance and coordination

  • Promote relaxation and stress relief

It is important to choose exercises that are appropriate for your fitness level and interests. Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

          Rapha Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)/Oriental medicine (OM) clinic in Newport Beach that specializes in men's and women's health. We can help you design the best treatment plan for your scoliosis using acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbs customized to your symptoms.
          At Rapha Acupuncture, we will work with you to create a treatment plan that is right for you. We offer a variety of acupuncture and herbal treatments, and we can customize your treatment to your individual needs. We are confident that we can help you relieve the pain and discomfort of scoliosis and improve your quality of life. 

Give us a call today!

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