Scoliosis affects approximately 6 to 9 million people in the United States, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), Although surgery is one of the options for treatment, some people prefer non-surgical scoliosis treatment. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of Schroth Physical Therapy – a non-surgical treatment option for patients with scoliosis.
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a disorder of the spine. It causes the spine to curve to one side. It can be any part of the spine but the most common areas are at the level of the chest and the lower back.
Scoliosis often appears during childhood and in many cases, the curve corrects itself as the child grows. However, based on the child’s age and the degree of the spine’s curvature, a combination of physical therapy and bracing is often recommended.
Typically, the onset for scoliosis is 10 to 15 years old, occurring equally among males and females. However, females are five times more likely to progress to a curve that will require treatment.
What are the types of Scoliosis?
The types of scoliosis are classified by cause and age of onset as well as the speed and mechanism of progression.
According to the AANS, there are three categories into which different forms of scoliosis can be classified:
Most cases of scoliosis are idiopathic. This means the cause is unknown or no single aspect contributes to the development of this health condition.
This form of scoliosis is the result of the spine not developing fully while the baby was still in the womb. Sometimes the child’s vertebrae do not form fully as he/she grows in the womb. In rare cases, one or more vertebrae do not form at all and this causes the spine to grow unevenly once a child is born.
This type of scoliosis is fairly rare, affecting only 1 in 10,000 newborns. Symptoms include tilted shoulders, head tilt, prominence of the ribs on one side, an uneven waistline, and an overall appearance of the body leaning to one side.
This form of scoliosis typically develops because of a neurological or muscular condition like cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. However, not all people who have a neurological condition will develop scoliosis.
This type of scoliosis tends to progress much more quickly than the other forms of scoliosis.
Other types of Scoliosis:
- Early-onset scoliosis
This form of scoliosis is diagnosed before the age of 10. Children under the age of 10 are still growing compared to kids above that age. Since children under 10 are still growing, early-onset scoliosis can lead to other conditions like malformed ribs which in turn, affects the development of the lungs.
In several cases, children with early-onset scoliosis do not show outward signs of spinal problems, especially if the curve is mild. Parents and child caregivers need to pay attention to the symmetry of the child’s body.
Symptoms of early-onset scoliosis include uneven shoulders, uneven hips, tilted head, the asymmetric contour of the waist, and leaning.
- Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis
This form of scoliosis is the most common and affects as many as 4 out of 100 children between the ages of 10 and 18.
Experts believe the causes of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis range from hormonal imbalances to asymmetric growth. Also, about 30% of all adolescent idiopathic scoliosis patients have a family history of scoliosis.
Most adolescent idiopathic scoliosis patients do not have neurologic abnormalities and do not experience any pain. Symptoms include uneven shoulders, a leaning torso, or a rib hump. In most cases, patients with this type of scoliosis also experience lower back pain.
- Adult/Late-Onset Scoliosis
Adult/Late-Onset Scoliosis is also known as degenerative scoliosis or De Novo Scoliosis. This form of scoliosis is typically the result of years of wear and tear on the spine. This is often more severe compared to adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and early onset scoliosis because the adult spine is more rigid than that of a child’s spine.
Many forms of scoliosis are not painful but degenerative scoliosis can be painful. Symptoms include sharp pain in the leg while walking but subsides when at rest, a dull ache or stiffness in the lower back, radiating pain from the lower back that spreads to the legs, and a tingling sensation that runs down the leg.
This form of scoliosis is most commonly diagnosed in people 50-years-old and above. Studies show 60% of the adult population over the age of 60 has some degree of degenerative scoliosis.
- Neuromuscular Scoliosis
Neuromuscular Scoliosis is a type of idiopathic scoliosis that develops secondary to other disorders of the spinal cord, brain, and muscular system. Such conditions include cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy, myelodysplasia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Freidrich ataxia.
Symptoms of this form of scoliosis are not painful unless the spinal curvature becomes very pronounced.
- Syndromic Scoliosis
Syndromic scoliosis is a form of scoliosis that develops secondary to some type of syndrome. These include Beale’s syndrome, Rett’s syndrome, muscular dystrophy, osteochondrodystrophy, and several connective tissue disorders.
Symptoms of this type of scoliosis vary. Generally, symptoms are not painful but can cause pain or discomfort with sitting when the condition is severe.
What are available scoliosis treatments?
Adolescent Idiopathic scoliosis has the highest probability of getting worse or all idiopathic types of scoliosis. If the curve is not very severe, doctors may recommend bracing. This can help the curve from getting worse until the child stops growing. Bracing is not recommended for patients who have stopped growing.
If the curvature is greater than 40 degrees, it is likely to continue to get worse by 1 to 2 degrees each year for the rest of the patient’s life. Eventually, the patient could be at risk for heart or lung problems. In cases like this, surgery is recommended.
The goal of surgery is to correct the curve back to as close to normal as possible. The surgeon will perform a spinal fusion using a combination of screws, hooks, and rods that are attached to the bones of the spine to hold them in place. Then, the doctor will place bone graft around the bones to be fused to get them to grow together and become solid.
- Scoliosis physical therapy exercises
Mild cases of scoliosis can be treated with specific exercises and stretches. Here are some exercises that are recommended for postural scoliosis that can come from bad posture or a leg length difference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-y8pp5EfYw
- Massage therapy techniques for scoliosis
Massage therapy helps reduce pain caused by scoliosis. It helps relax the muscles of the back and body and it also helps improve your flexibility.
1.Deep tissue massage
This type of massage helps improve your posture, increase your flexibility, and lowers heart rate and blood pressure while healing body pain. It targets the deeper layers of your muscles and connective tissues.
This type of massage helps alleviate stress and migraine headaches. This gentle treatment across the head, spinal cord, and sacrum helps release tension in your muscles and joints which results in mobility and spine balance.
3. Swedish massage
This type of massage uses techniques like kneading, circular motion, and smooth strokes on your back with oil or lotion. The light pressure used for this type of massage helps relieve headaches, back pain, stiffness, and insomnia.
This type of massage focuses on stretching and rotating your limbs and joints. It helps improves blood circulation, relieves backaches and stiff neck and shoulders.
- Schroth Physical Therapy
Schroth Physical Therapy is another non-surgical scoliosis treatment option for patients. It uses exercises tailored to each patient’s spine curvature.
This approach was developed by Katharina Schroth who was born in Germany in the late 1800s. She had scoliosis which was not treated successfully with bracing. So, she developed her breathing techniques and exercises to manage her scoliosis. Together with her daughter Christa, they opened a clinic where they treated more than 150 patients at a time.
The goal is to prevent scoliosis from progressing. The exercises are designed to de-rotate, elongate, and stabilize your spine. This is achieved by focusing on restoring your body’s muscular symmetry and alignment of your posture; breathing into the concave side of your body; and teaching you to be aware of your posture.
Here is a video showing Schroth Method Exercises for Scoliosis
Bracing may still be a part of the treatment depending on your age, bone maturity, and degree of curvature.
In addition to the correction of curvature, Schroth Physical Therapy can help improve your posture, improve your core stability and strength, help you breathe more easily, reduce pain, improve your overall movement pattern and function, improve your self-management and understanding of how your spine functions, and give you better pelvis alignment.
If you prefer a non-surgical scoliosis treatment, it is best to consult with a physical therapist.
At Vigor Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, you will receive superior care and patient-centered service. We are committed to your health and wellness.
If you have any questions or would like to talk directly to our physical therapist, call us today for a free consultation.