Often when scoliosis patients and healthcare professionals think of exercise for scoliosis. They think of general exercise like Pilates, Yoga, core stability and general stretching and strengthening of muscles, which although improve body function and performance they have no effect on the prevention or control of scoliosis.
Physiotherapy scoliosis specific exercise programmes have been heavily researched in recent years and been shown to be effective in the management of small curves ie 10-20 degrees in adolescence.
When adolescent curves are greater than 20 degrees, exercise is no longer regarded as being strong enough as a sole treatment for scoliosis, but it helps to improve the effectiveness of long term bracing results.
When scoliosis specific exercise programs are combined with bracing they help to improve muscular balance and strength, spinal flexibility and neuromuscular co-ordination.
Scoliosis specific exercise programmes have also been shown to aid in improving postural symmetry and reducing pain in adults with scoliosis. Further research is still needed to determine their effectiveness in the ability to reduce Cobb angles consistently in adults.
At the core of scoliosis specific exercise, a patient must learn how to self-correct their specific curve and posture to the best of their ability and then maintain the self-corrected posture in everyday life. Exercises are directed at moving the spine in the opposite direction to which it is positioned and then strengthening the neuro-muscular system in that improved position.
There are two physiotherapy exercise techniques that are recognised as being clinically effective for the treatment of scoliosis. The first is the Schroth method, which was developed in Germany by Katherina Schroth and the second is the Scientific Exercise Approach To Scoliosis (SEAS) which is from Italy.
The Chiropractic Biophysics (CBP) technique is also a beneficial treatment approach in a scoliosis rehabilitation plan. It involves a complex biomechanical analysis of the spine and posture and its shift away from normal structural alignment. It is based upon shifting the spine and posture back to its normal alignment, by moving the body into the Mirror Image position ie the opposite position to which the body is in. There are case studies that show CBP to be effective in treating non-progressive scoliosis in adults, however it is not strong enough to be used alone in the treatment of progressive scoliosis in children and adolescents.
It is important to remember that an effective scoliosis exercise and rehabilitation programme is never a one size fits all! That’s why at the UK Scoliosis Clinic we tailor them to the needs and ability of the patient. Each approach has its benefits and limitations and most importantly time commitment, so we make sure that it is going to work in the patients lifestyle.