Physical Therapy for Scoliosis: Schroth Method Treatment
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Most people have heard about scoliosis, but not many know what the condition is, how it influences everyday life and what's the best way to treat it.
Scoliosis affects around 3% of the entire population. It can be mild, moderate, or severe and is more common among women.
While scoliosis can develop and be diagnosed at any time, generally, it's discovered in the teenage years.
There are many ways to approach the treatment and management of scoliosis, from exercise to surgery.
One of the most common and effective ways to treat it is physical therapy for scoliosis. Let's take a closer look.
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis affects the curvature of the spine - with the condition present, the spine twists and curves to the side. The spaces between the vertebrae may get compressed or stretched too.
The spine's shape can take the form of a "c" or "s" letter, and the severity of the curvature can vary from person to person. However, this or the way the vertebrae rotate is not visible to the naked eye.
During diagnosis, doctors and medical experts measure the angle of the curvature (Cobb angle), and if it's 10 degrees or more, scoliosis is confirmed.
There are a few different types of scoliosis, and a doctor or physical therapist assesses and diagnoses each patient individually.
Types of Scoliosis
Before discussing how physical therapy for scoliosis can improve the condition and quality of life, let's briefly talk about the condition types.
Congenital scoliosis: Congenital scoliosis appears in utero when the baby's bones develop. It's a sideways spinal curvature caused by a defect present at birth.
Early-onset scoliosis (EOS). EOS is a curvature of the spine in children under the age of 10 years. Over 100,000 children a year in the US are diagnosed with it.
AIS (adolescent idiopathic scoliosis). The most common type of scoliosis occurs around 10-18 years and is found in 4 out of 100 children. It develops during the rapid growth period of the child, but the cause is not well-determined yet.
Neuromuscular scoliosis. The second most common form of scoliosis is associated with disorders of the nerve or muscular systems, such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and spinal cord injury. These conditions weaken the muscles that support the spine, which may lead to this form of scoliosis.
Syndromic scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is related to such connective tissue disorders as Prada-Willi, Retts, Beale's, Marfan's, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, trisomy 21, etc.
How Can I Tell If I Have Scoliosis?
One of the reasons why scoliosis can go undiagnosed for a long time is that it doesn't necessarily have painful symptoms.
Pain can occur when the deformed spine affects the nearby muscles and joints and is most commonly felt during specific activities or motions.
Besides that, the symptoms include a misaligned spine, incorrect or abnormal posture, and unnatural curvature. All these lead to a reduced range of motion and loss of strength.
One of the ways to know if it's time to get checked out for scoliosis is if you notice unevenness in the body. For example, one hip or shoulder may be higher, etc.
Uneven shoulder and/or hip height.
A sense of body misalignment
Pain around the spine and/or during specific movements
The appearance that the legs are uneven in length
If you notice any of these, it's a good idea to get checked out by a professional physical therapist. While most children are screened during school years, it is possible for the condition to be undetected or develop later in life.
An X-ray will be needed to confirm the diagnosis, and physical therapy for scoliosis is an integral part of treatment.
How Physical Therapy Can Treat Scoliosis
Generally, scoliosis treatment consists of two or three parts, surgery, bracing, and physical therapy, while surgery is not always necessary.
Physical therapy for scoliosis is helpful in all stages of treating scoliosis, which is best when approached with all disciplines.
The patient's doctor and physical therapist thoroughly examine and assess the patient before they agree on the best treatment plan.
But whatever the treatment plan, physical therapy can help every step of the way.
Physical therapy treatments for scoliosis include the following.
Stretching and Strengthening of Muscles
Strong back and core muscles are essential to support the spine. The physical therapist (PT) also focuses on the adjacent muscles and the hips, shoulders, and neck strengthening. Usually, PTs use hands-on modalities and prescribe physical therapy scoliosis exercises to achieve the best results. They also will help retrain the body and the way it moves.
Body Mechanics Improvement
Body mechanics is how people move daily; doing it properly helps avoid muscle weakness, injury, and pain. During the physical therapy sessions, the PTs teach patients how body mechanics affect the body and how to improve them by retraining them.
The physical therapist also provides patients with an individualized range of motion treatment guidance that addresses and helps manage the limitations of scoliosis.
Improving body mechanics helps achieve optimal movement and function, prevent the condition from worsening, reduce symptoms and improve posture.
Stabilize the Spine
Physical therapy exercises for scoliosis include lumbar stabilization to strengthen muscles supporting the spine and prevent lower back pain.
The PT also teaches patients to find their neutral spine position and stay in it with a regimen of exercises. The professional PT initially leads these exercises, which can later be performed at home.
The physical therapist may also use such modalities as ice, heat, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound can help people reach their physical therapy goals. Your physical therapist will choose suitable methods for your specific case.
What is the Schroth Method?
Another scoliosis treatment is the Schroth Method. It's a nonsurgical approach that relies on custom exercises that help return the spine curvatures to a neutral position.
It uses specific exercises based on a patient's individual spinal curve and helps strengthen and lengthen the spine.
Credits: National Scoliosis Center
Schroth exercises work to prevent scoliosis from advancing. Some patients with more severe scoliosis may require bracing to achieve results.
Active postural alignment of the spine helps reduce deformity and is an essential component of the method.
The Schroth Method typically consists of five to twenty sessions that last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the patient's endurance and the severity of their case.
Schroth Method includes:
Rotational angular breathing
Awareness of posture
What are Schroth Exercises for Scoliosis?
The Schroth method or Schroth therapy is tailored to the patient's spine curvature. Schroth exercises are performed standing, sitting, or lying down, and various props, such as balls or bars, are used during the program.
The end goal of the Schroth method for scoliosis is to elongate, stabilize and de-rotate the spine.
And while these physical therapy scoliosis exercises are tailored to the patient, all of them are working to based on three components.
With scoliosis, the muscles on either side of the spine can weaken and waste away, but either way, regular physical therapy exercises for scoliosis are essential to balance them out, keep them strong and healthy, and achieve symmetry.
Rotational Angular Breathing
Breathing is an important component of the scoliosis Schroth method. The Schroth method exercises utilize a breathing technique known as rotational angular breathing when rotating the spine with breathing helps to reshape the rib cage. This, in time, helps improve posture.
Awareness of the spine's position is the first step to treating patients with scoliosis. It's the ability to be aware of your own posture without a mirror or someone else observing. Postural awareness is essential during everyday activities as some positions worsen the condition and become more painful.
What Results Can be Expected After Completing a Schroth Method Treatment?
After completing the Schroth method program and physical therapy treatment for scoliosis, most patients will notice a difference in their spine.
But besides the correction of the spinal curve, people can expect to:
Better core stability and strength
Better body alignment
One of the most important outcomes of the Schroth Method is that it may help avoid surgery.
It's important to mention that patients need to commit to the process in order to see real results.
Usually, depending on the individual case, the program takes between 5 and 20 hourlong sessions. Some sessions can be shorter.
Scoliosis affects around 3% of the population, and while it is commonly discovered in childhood or teen years, sometimes it goes undiscovered for years.
Physical therapy for scoliosis is beneficial during the entire process of treating scoliosis, from bracing to surgery (if needed).
A common method to treat scoliosis is Schroth therapy (or Schroth Method), with exercises tailored to each patient's spine curvature.
After completing the program, which may take from 5 to 20 sessions, most patients will notice a difference in their spine, improved posture, and improved quality of life.
If you're searching for physical therapy for scoliosis near me, get in touch with Miracle Physical Therapy and Massage Center for professional scoliosis care.