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by Jennifer Mohns, DPT

physical therapy for pediatric scoliosis

How do I know if my child has scoliosis? Is there physical therapy treatment for children with scoliosis?

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine, creating an “S” or “C” like shape.  Each individuals’ spine naturally curves slightly, but scoliosis is a relatively prominent visual pathology.  Idiopathic scoliosis in the most common form of the pathology, this means that cause of the scoliosis is unknown.   It is most common in young females and generally worsens during a growth spurt. Scoliosis can also be present at birth, referred to as congenital scoliosis. This occurs when the baby’s ribs or spine do not form properly.

Children can develop scoliosis at different times during their growth. The naming of scoliosis is grouped by age:

  • Infantile scoliosis: <3 years
  • Juvenile scoliosis: 4-10 years
  • Adolescent scoliosis: 11-18 years

Symptoms that your child will usually present with:

  • Mid/low back aches
  • Tired or fatigue feeling in back after sitting in school or standing for a prolonged time
  • Uneven height of hips or shoulders
  • Spine curves more to one side: forming “S” or “C” shape

If you are suspicious that your child may have scoliosis set up an appointment with the primary care doctor or with a physical therapist. Testing may include measuring the height of the shoulders, spinal curve, x-rays for pelvic tilting, and an MRI of the spine.

Physical Therapy Treatment for Pediatric Scoliosis

Most children with idiopathic scoliosis are not prescribed physical therapy by their doctor. However, it is very important for all children with scoliosis to participate in physical therapy in order to prevent injuries later in life. Children with scoliosis are more susceptible to hamstring strains, shoulder pathologies, low back disorders, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and other related injuries.

Physical therapy treatment aims to strengthen the muscles around the spine and help to create awareness and improvement in posture. Typically one side of the spine becomes stiff; creating deficits in joint mobility and soft tissue flexibility.  Both sides of the spine tend to become weak.  You will often notice a “hump” on this side of the spine.

Other treatment options include surgery and back braces.  Physical therapy can help your child to avoid both of these more aggressive alternatives. Please feel free to contact a physical therapist with any questions.

Dr. Mohns is a Physical Therapist at Boston Sports Medicine