scoliosis from a herniated disc

by Holly
(Lombard, IL)

I was diagnosed with a herniated disc and sciatica last fall because of extreme back pain, and not being able to walk very well or sit. I had spinal injections, medications, physical therapy, etc when the pain slowly subsided.

Now, I have from time to time and achiness in my thigh from the sciatica but can do mostly anything except high impact activity.

I went to the chiropractor the other day for an exam and the xrays showed I have scoliosis. My question is this: should I leave well enough alone? or should I get chiropractic adjustments to help with the scoliosis? If my body created the scoliosis to relieve pressure off of the nerve, won't pushing the spine back in alignment put the disc pressure on the nerve again and cause the original pain? But if I don't do anything for the scoliosis, I'm worried that the herniated disc could come back too or other problems would occur. I don't know what to do and would appreciate some advice. Thank you so much!

Hello Holly,
Gosh, this brings back memories; I survived the blizzard of '79! And four long winters living and training in Roosevelt Rd. You live in the heart of the chiropractic world.

There are two kinds of scoliosis; one which is temporary, called an antalgia, and the other is permanent. When you had your slipped disc, were you standing and looking like a question mark? That's a functional scoliosis, or antalgia.

The second is permanent and is usually caused by a short leg, or a chronically subluxated sacrum, for example after slipping and falling on the ice.

And, of course, at the time of your slipped disc you may well have had both.

A permanent scoliosis is associated with a higher incidence of knee, hip and lumbar arthritis; and more back and sacroiliac joint pain.

I'm of the opinion that an orthotic in your shoe is of great value; it seeks to make your hips level and your spine much straighter. But it's not straight forward.

That could be an insert inside your shoe, either under the heel only, or sometimes the whole foot. It could be either.

If the leg is more than 10mm shorter, it should go under the shoe, but that's not common.

Then you may go for a very expensive pair of orthotics that go in both shoes, the one thicker than the other. Each chiropractor has his or her own opinions.

I personally go for the cheaper version, because the orthotics are so highly priced here and certainly not always of benefit. Making a good orthotic is an art in itself. I decide on the heel vs whole shoe, and how thick based on proprioceptive testing, but it's very subjective.

You have to work at this, Holly. Perhaps print this out and discuss it with your chiropractor. If your back is basically stable, I'd try the inserts for a month or two, trying to decide whether thicker or thinner, whole foot vs heel works best for you.

And do our lower back exercises EVERY morning before getting out of bed.

I hope this contributes.

Dr B

PS. Could you send me a digital version of your xrays, taken standing, I hope.

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