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Physical Therapy for Scoliosis


Scoliosis is a problematic back condition that can negatively impact a person’s health. When left untreated, and if the condition is severe enough, it can cause a patient extensive back pain, limit flexibility, and ultimately have additional health impacts. Fortunately, with proper diagnosis and treatment, scoliosis doesn’t have to be a major handicap. Indeed, scoliosis patients can benefit from an array of scoliosis treatments. 

Scoliosis bracing is one of the most common treatments for scoliosis. In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the spine curve. However, treating scoliosis usually requires embracing various therapeutic methods to help people heal their spine and recover. Physical therapy (PT) for scoliosis is a highly popular treatment method. When done right and combined with other treatment methods, physical therapists can help a person restore flexibility, reduce the curvature of their spine, and improve overall functionality. 

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a disorder of the spine. This condition is usually attributed to specific genetics or chronic conditions, including muscular dystrophy. However, scoliosis is not usually the result of an accident or injury, although an accident can worsen an existing condition. Generally speaking, a person is born with scoliosis or the condition leading to scoliosis. 

Specifically, scoliosis is a curve in the spine. The more severe the curve, the more likely you will have pain, physical deformities, or reduced function. Scoliosis is generally considered a minor disease, usually noticed in children or teenagers, and often a condition that disappears on its own. Bracing is a common and non-invasive form of treatment for scoliosis. In this treatment, a medical practitioner will prescribe a patient a brace – similar to how bracers work for teeth. This brace will help correct spine misalignments and help bring the spine back into a natural condition. 

Individuals diagnosed with scoliosis are often given regular monitoring and diagnostic examinations, including X-rays, to see if a brace works or if a condition worsens. Surgery may be necessary in extreme cases or major deformities of the spine. Thankfully, treating scoliosis does not usually hit these levels of severity, and only about 10% of scoliosis patients usually need such an extreme form of treatment. 

Are There Different Types of Scoliosis?

There are three types of scoliosis. They are:

  • Idiopathic scoliosis: This is the most common type of scoliosis, and it is the diagnosis when the other two types – congenital and neuromuscular – have been ruled out. An estimated 80% of all cases are idiopathic scoliosis. 
  • Congenital scoliosis: This is a type of scoliosis that occurs when an embryo is still developing and may occur in any of the vertebrae of the spine. The result of congenital scoliosis is that different parts of the spine grow at different rates. As a result, damages from congenital scoliosis are more pronounced and visible than other forms of scoliosis, leading to a younger diagnosis and an easier time diagnosing the disease in children. 
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis: As noted above, scoliosis is often a side effect of another disease, like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. This type of scoliosis is the type that occurs with a diagnosis of one of these conditions. As such, neuromuscular scoliosis is considered “secondary” to a main disease. 

There is not necessarily a “better” or “worse” form of scoliosis. However, all forms of scoliosis are capable of causing back pain, damaging the spine, and may result in the need for numerous methods of intervention. 

How is Scoliosis Diagnosed?

Scoliosis is usually visible in the form of a curve of the spine. Trained medical staff, including a nurse or physical therapist, can often detect scoliosis in a person. Other physical signs include high shoulder blades, hips, or a changed physical appearance that makes it appear that one part of the body is jutting forward or not aligned. Indeed, some sort of physical asymmetry is usually the most common form of scoliosis. 

Scoliosis screenings are often a part of children’s regular medical checks. In addition, some schools will conduct regular scoliosis screening. These tests can often diagnose the condition before a doctor will even notices. 

In some cases, a practitioner may prescribe more advanced diagnosis tools, like an X-ray or another imaging tool. This will be done to determine if scoliosis is present and how severe it is. An X-ray can help to identify scoliosis treatment options and help children or adults determine the best course of treatment for the condition. 

Can Scoliosis Permanently Damage the Spine if Left Untreated?

There’s no set answer to this question, as the answer ultimately depends on the severity of a person’s scoliosis. With proper exercises, including bracing or physical therapy, an individual can usually fully recover from scoliosis and avoid any long-term damage to their health. However, studies have found that, if left untreated, moderate to severe scoliosis can cause long-term back pain. In these instances, scoliosis can reduce a person’s movement and cause other health challenges, including problems with the heart or lungs.

That being said, it’s important to appropriately define what “untreated” means. All scoliosis does not need surgery or intensive PT programming. There are often exercises and bracing that are low impact and relatively non-disruptive to a person’s life. These exercises can go a long way to protecting an individual’s health and keeping them from becoming a hospital patient. However, what is important is that a person sees an appropriate physical therapist, doctor, or other medical professional. 

How Can Physical Therapy (PT) for Scoliosis Help?

Here’s the good news: Physical therapy for scoliosis can be incredibly helpful in managing your condition and ensuring that any type of scoliosis is properly addressed and remediated. With the care of a physical therapist, you can improve your health and functionality.

Physical therapy for scoliosis can help in many ways. These include:

  • PT can strengthen your back muscles. When done right, physical therapy exercises can ensure that you stretch, build muscle mass, and improve flexibility.
  • Physical therapy can correct problems with your posture and movement. This, in turn, can lead to more efficient and less painful body movements, allowing your body to develop more naturally and healthily.
  • A Physical therapist will understand the specific exercises, stretching, and mobilization techniques that can lead to a straighter spine and healthier back. 

Physical therapy for scoliosis can be incredibly helpful, but it is important to note that no physical therapy will work if you only practice during your physical therapy sessions. Exercise sessions are required to give you the guidance and healing you need. 

It is worth noting that all of these benefits make physical therapy among the most commonly used treatment for scoliosis. As a result, you will want to find a physical therapist who is extremely familiar with and well-versed in the specific benefits of PT for scoliosis. At Boston Sports Medicine, we provide physical therapy at various locations across Massachusetts. We also have physical therapists who are experts in various treatments, including scoliosis. As a result, we can work with you to develop specific exercises and rehabilitation programs that can reduce your pain and help you get your life back. 

Also Read: Luxury Physical Therapy

What is the Schroth Method For Your Back?

One of the most common forms of exercise and physical therapy for scoliosis is Schroth Method. The Schroth Method seeks to arrest the spine curve that may worsen with scoliosis. 

The Schroth Method is a series of exercises – monitored and prescribed by a physical therapist – designed specifically for each patient. A physical therapist can help patients develop routines that strengthen spinal and back muscles when done right. The Schroth Method also involves teaching specific breathing exercises to increase bodily awareness and restore symmetry. 

A person who completes the Schroth Method can expect better posture, reduced asymmetry, and an easier time completing exercises in general. 

What Other Forms of Treatment Can Help With Scoliosis?

As noted above, physical therapy is not the only potential therapy option a patient may seek to protect their health. In many cases, a physical therapist may work with a patient to not only conduct rehabilitation and exercise sessions but to help them find other options of PT or therapy that will help them get rid of their scoliosis and reduce their back pain. 

Using a brace is among the most common and least invasive forms of treatment for a scoliosis patient. A brace is often used for individuals who at least have moderate scoliosis. A brace may also be used in conjunction with surgery or upon the advice of a physical therapist. Indeed, the type of brace used and the amount of time it is worn may ultimately depend on the recommendations of a physical therapist and how well a patient performs during physical therapy. While the specifics vary, a brace is usually worn for at least 12 hours daily. In addition, a brace is typically used if a patient is still growing, and the brace can help guide the patient’s growth. 

Surgery may be the most viable treatment option in more severe cases and when less invasive treatment methods fail. However, surgery is usually only used when patients have a minimum 45-degree angle in their spine. In these instances, PT sessions or other less invasive methods, like bracing or Schroth Method exercises, may not be helpful. Surgery is typically a form of spinal fusion when two or more vertebrae are fused. At a minimum, it often allows the spine curve to stop growing, resulting in vast improvements to a patient’s overall health. 

It is worth noting that surgery is an important step in scoliosis treatment, not the final one. Surgery can go a long way toward improving health. However, an individual will likely need various physical therapy sessions to recover fully. They will likely need to see a physical therapist for some time and complete various exercises at home. This treatment must be prescribed by a certified physical therapist and monitored under a doctor’s care. Physical therapy may help patients recover from surgery, strengthen their core and back muscles, and ultimately recover their health. 

As you would expect for any surgery, the PT may be very extensive, and a patient must work closely with a physical therapist to find the right exercises for them. In addition, this customized exercise program must also be adjusted to account for potential gains or setbacks in a patient’s recovery. 

Where Can I Find Scoliosis Treatment Near Me?

When left untreated, scoliosis can be painful and debilitating. Thankfully, with the right physical therapy, children and adults can recover from this condition, reduce back pain, and have a completely healthy and functional life.

If you are looking for the best physical therapy for scoliosis, contact Boston Sports Medicine today. At Boston Sports Medicine, we offer an array of physical therapy and have physical staff who have extensive experience when it comes to managing your health care and helping you treat scoliosis. Don’t wait another day: Contact us today to get the physical therapy for scoliosis you need and deserve.