Twisting of the spine affects other organs[Oriental medicine]
The skeleton is the structural framework of the human body. It consists of 220 or so bones connected by a fantastic array of joints, cartilage, tendons, and muscles, and it contributes greatly to our appearance and energetic functioning. Unfortunately, anomalies in this structure do occur. These irregularities can be detrimental to physiological harmony, and eventually, they may jeopardize overall health.
One such structural irregularity, which often begins between the ages of 10 and 15, is called scoliosis. Scoliosis is a condition where the spine is twisted sideways and starts to rotate. The shoulder may curve one way while the lower back twists another, so that the chest and back are distorted. Statistically, scoliosis affects girls seven times more often than boys.
Spinal scoliosis may be caused by rare structural defects, such as the absence of a rib on one side or the incomplete development of a vertebra. Alternately, it may result from a neuromuscular disease such as cerebral palsy or a paralytic condition in which the muscles are much weaker on one side.
Most commonly, scoliosis is caused by idiopathic adolescent functional spinal curvature. “Idiopathic” means that there is no known cause. Idiopathic scoliosis can go unnoticed in children because it is usually painless in the formative years. Therefore, parents should watch for the following warning signs, beginning in children around 8 years of age: uneven shoulders, prominent shoulder blades, uneven waist, elevated hips, or leaning to one side.
If scoliosis is suspected, a standing X-ray should be done.
In Oriental Medicine, where health is based on the idea of a harmonious, well-balanced flow of qi (energy) in the body, twisting of the spine often causes various organic dysfunctions and vice versa. For example, if there is a curve at the thorax vertebrae, it is very likely that the patient will eventually develop heart, lung, or stomach problems. Girls who have twisted lumbar (lower back) vertebrae with additional distortion of the pelvic girdle are very likely to suffer from menstrual problems or even infertility. Mental depression and headaches can also be caused by these structural or functional irregularities of the spine.
From the perspective of Oriental Medicine, idiopathic scoliosis is caused by deficiency of the kidney function, which ideally nourishes and supports the bones and joints in the body. To improve kidney function, a mixture of herbs is prepared, according to tried and true recipes. To halt or reduce curvature, a special kind of manual therapy, called Chuna therapy, is performed, which smoothly manipulates the spine and balances the flow of qi. Depending on the degree of spinal curvature, acupuncture and moxibustion might be applied to further balance the meridian energy flow.
Although exercise is helpful, “one-sided” activities are contraindicated. For example, sports such as tennis and ballet, as well as carrying a backpack that is not balanced equally on both shoulders, are activities that can create or exacerbate spinal curvature.
Adolescence is the period of life when children grow physically and emotionally on their path to adulthood. The spine must keep pace, and therefore it is crucial to keep it in good shape
Raimund Royer is Medical Director of the International Clinic at the Jaseng Hospital of Oriental Medicine.