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What is scoliosis?


        Scoliosis is the sideways curvature of the spine, often appearing like an S or C shape. Most cases of scoliosis occur among adolescents and are usually mild. However, some can worsen as they grow older, resulting in severe scoliosis - a severe spinal curve. This reduces the amount of space in the chest for the lungs to function properly (Mayo Clinic, 2022).

How does scoliosis happen?

         Some of the causes of scoliosis include aging, traumatic injuries, and disorders of congenital, neurological, musculoskeletal, and connective tissue (Choi, Jo, Park, Sung, et al., 2020). In many cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown and cannot be treated. This condition is called idiopathic scoliosis and can affect 8 out of 10 individuals with scoliosis. Research has also found that there can be a genetic link to the condition in some idiopathic cases. However, there are only a small number of cases when the cause is identified, affecting the nerves and muscles. These health conditions are cerebral palsy, which affects the brain and nerves; muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that causes muscle weakness; and neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that causes the growth of benign tumors (NHS Inform, 2023). In addition, babies can be born with scoliosis, known as congenital scoliosis, which is caused by the bones in the spine developing abnormally. With long-term damage, degenerative scoliosis can occur due to the gradual deterioration of certain parts of the spine (NHS Inform, 2023).

What are the symptoms of scoliosis?


         Some symptoms of scoliosis can include a difference in shoulder height, hip height or position, and shoulder blade height or position (Johns Hopkins Medicine, n.d.). In addition, some patients have experienced leg length discrepancy and impaired seating posture, resulting in lower quality of life compared to healthy individuals (Choi, Jo, Park, Sung, et al., 2020). They can also resemble other spinal conditions or deformities, so it’s important to consult a doctor for a diagnosis. Those 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?

         The causes of low back pain from scoliosis in Oriental Medicine can be closely associated with the health of the Kidney-organ function. When the Kidney function is deficient, the flow of Qi and/or blood can stagnate, causing pain. In addition, the free flow of Qi and blood in the body can become impeded by external wind, cold, dampness, or heat that invades the back, weakening the immune system (Gypson & Morse, n.d.).Wind, relating to fever, is a sign of conflict between an exterior pathogen and Qi (Dashtdar, et al., 2016). When this happens, we are “more susceptible to external invasions through the pores of our skin” (Gypson & Morse, n.d.). The insufficiency of Qi or blood, causing stagnation of flow throughout the meridians in the body, can even be due to poor diet, excessive strain on muscles, and insufficient rest.

What can Oriental Medicine do to treat scoliosis?

         Acupuncture can help reduce musculoskeletal pain due to muscular imbalances and poor posture from the curved spine. This type of modality in TCM works to restore normal movement and function and improve general well-being and energy levels (Arapahoe Chiropractic & Acupuncture Center, n.d.). While patients experience decreased scoliosis pain from acupuncture, they may also feel more relaxed in tight areas of the muscles. The acupuncture points used to treat scoliosis are on the spine and back and the meridians of the Kidney and Bladder. If the channels around the spine are not working together properly, there can be a deficiency in Yang, which is related to function and heat (Weiss, Bohr, Jahnke, & Pleines, 2008). Acupuncture restores balance to the flow of energy to one or more meridians. For example, inserting needles into specific points along the meridians can remove any blockages of energy flow (Scoliosis SOS Clinic,  2016).


         There are five acupressure points for treating scoliosis: Small Intestine-3, Ren-17, GV-4, KI-1, and M-BW-35. Small Intestine-3, located in hand, can help shrink the abdomen and straighten the spine. Ren-17, located at the center point of the chest, plays an important role in supporting any scoliosis-related deformities, allowing patients to walk more steadily (P., 2022). GV-4 (Governing Vessel-4), located in the middle of the spine behind the belly button, can help treat chronic spine pain (P., 2022). KI-1 (Kidney-1), located in the feet, can help patients with scoliosis with flat feet by preventing the forefoot arch from collapsing (P., 2022). Lastly, M-BW-35 (Hua Tuo Jia Ji/Hua Tuo Spine Ridge Edges), a cluster of 34 pressure points running along the spine, strengthens the connection between the muscular and skeletal systems (P., 2022).


       Some herbs that can be used to treat scoliosis include turmeric and thyme. Turmeric, an anti-inflammatory, can help patients experiencing chronic muscle pain from a curved spine. For example, the yellow pigment curcumin in turmeric is a natural therapeutic agent that has been tested for pain disorders such as diabetic neuropathy, burn pain, osteoarthritis, and delayed muscle soreness (MW, Strauchman, Fleischman, 2015). Thyme, also an anti-inflammatory, can be used to prevent inflammation. As a natural antibiotic, it can be rubbed directly on the spine or area that’s inflamed to boost the immune system and eliminate the buildup of pathogens (HV Holistic, n.d.).  


        If patients are experiencing lower back pain from scoliosis, moxibustion can help improve Liver and Kidney deficiency, Qi and Blood deficiency, trauma, or strain (Zhu, Xiong, Chen, Tang, et al., 2020). It’s used as an external treatment method to generate warmth on the skin and exert a therapeutic effect. Moxibustion aims to warm the meridians while dispelling cold and dampness and relieving pain  (Zhu, Xiong, Chen, Tang, et al., 2020).


      Cupping has been used as a successful modality to treat patients with scoliosis as it improves muscle tightness, reduces trigger-point areas, and brings new blood circulation to promote healing. The cups create a suction effect, which stretches the muscles and connective tissue under the cup, stimulating blood flow (Simple Wellness, 2020). In addition, a combination of acupuncture and cupping can help correct the abnormal curvature of the spine and thoracic back pain in adult idiopathic scoliosis (Boeland, Montgomery, & Mortenson, 2020). Thunder-fire moxibustion, which has a stronger effect than general moxibustion, can promote peripheral blood circulation and relieve blood stasis (Zhang, Zhai, Wang, et al., 2022).


          Staying active and exercising is a vital lifestyle recommendation because it can strengthen the body’s core and promote flexibility. Some forms of exercise include yoga, pilates, and swimming, as each involves stretching and deep breathing (Sager, 2020). In addition, core-strengthening activities such as mountain biking and running can also be helpful to the body (Sager, 2020).

          At Rapha Acupuncture in Newport Beach, we are a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)/Oriental medicine (OM) clinic specializing in men's and women’s health. We can help you design the best treatment plan for your trigger finger! Using acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbs customized to your symptoms, Rapha Acupuncture provides a natural and holistic solution. Give us a call today!

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