Tag: scoliosis exercise

What Is Scoliosis Specific exercise?

Every Scoliosis case is unique, and at the UK Scoliosis clinic, we believe this means each case needs a unique treatment program. Scoliosis-specific exercise is just one of the many tools which we can use to treat scoliosis cases.

Historically, general exercises like Pilates and yoga (sometimes performed in a specific way) were used as an attempted treatment, but modern research has shown that they lack a direct impact on its prevention or control. Fortunately, two specialised approaches, Schroth and SEAS, have emerged as effective tools for reducing scoliosis progression and promoting correction.


Understanding Scoliosis-Specific Exercise

Scoliosis-specific exercises are meticulously designed routines, customised for each patient, aiming to counteract the curvature of scoliosis. Unlike bracing, scoliosis-specific exercise does require consistent effort on the part of the patient since the focus is on self-correction and maintaining improved posture in daily life.


SEAS – Scientific Exercise Approach To Scoliosis

SEAS is an individualised exercise program tailored for scoliosis treatment. It can be used independently for small curves or as a complement to bracing for larger curves and those with high progression risks.


Schroth Method

The first scientific approach to treating Scoliosis with exercise, Schroth was developed in 1921 by Katharina Schroth. The Schroth method consists of over 100 individualised exercises chosen based on the patient’s specific curve. The program addresses functional issues associated with scoliosis, actively working to improve the condition during everyday life, not just during targeted exercise sessions.


Chiropractic Biophysics (CBP)

While not directly designed for Scoliosis treatment, Chiropractic Biophysics deserves an honourable mention. CBP involves a biomechanical analysis of the spine and posture, followed by a targeted program aimed at shifting them back to normal alignment. There’s currently no research which recommends CBP as a mainline Scoliosis treatment, however at the UK Scoliosis clinic we sometimes also use it as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation plan for individuals who are suffering back pain.


Effectiveness of Scoliosis-Specific Exercise

Research indicates that physiotherapy-based scoliosis-specific exercise programs are effective in managing small curves (10-20 degrees) in adolescence. For curves exceeding 20 degrees, exercise alone is not considered sufficient, but it enhances long-term results when combined with bracing. These programs improve muscular balance, strength, spinal flexibility, neuromuscular coordination, postural symmetry, and reduce pain in adults with scoliosis.


Scoliosis-Specific Exercise at the UK Scoliosis Clinic

The UK Scoliosis Clinic offers individually tailored programs as standalone treatments or as part of comprehensive plans involving bracing and complementary approaches. Recognising that one size does not fit all, our clinic emphasises regular review, updating, and modification of exercise programs to ensure continuous improvement tailored to each patient’s needs and abilities.


Is Walking A Good Exercise For People With Scoliosis?

It’s well known that exercise is a great way to stay healthy whatever other conditions you may have – it’s all now well known that some sports and activities (especially those which focus only on one side of the body) may not be the best choice for those with Scoliosis.

We get many questions about exercise and which are the best options for people with Scoliosis – but the most important one is this, is plain old walking a good choice? The short answer is yes. Walking is generally considered a safe and effective exercise for people with scoliosis – it works both sides of the body evenly, it’s easy, does not put too much strain on the body, can be done with your brace on and is surprisingly effective!


The benefits of walking for people with scoliosis

Walking is a low-impact exercise that can help strengthen the muscles in the legs, hips, and back. This can be particularly helpful for people with scoliosis, as weak muscles in these areas can contribute to poor posture and spinal curvature. Walking also helps improve balance, coordination, and flexibility, which are important for maintaining good spinal health.

In addition to physical benefits, walking can also have mental health benefits. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and increase overall feelings of well-being. For people with scoliosis, who may experience pain and discomfort as a result of their condition, walking can provide a natural way to manage symptoms and improve their quality of life.


Precautions to take when walking with scoliosis

While walking is generally considered safe for people with scoliosis, there are a few precautions you should take to minimise any potential risks.

First, it is important to work with a healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist or orthopaedic specialist, to develop a safe and effective exercise program. They can help you identify any limitations or areas of weakness that may need to be addressed before starting an exercise program. This is less about the way you walk and more about taking sensible steps to avoid things like walking with a heavy backpack etc – each case is different here, but follow any relevant guidelines you are given.

It is also important to wear supportive shoes and to choose a safe walking route. Avoid uneven or rocky terrain that could increase your risk of falling or injuring yourself.

Another important consideration is posture. Good posture is important for maintaining a healthy spine, and people with scoliosis may need to work on improving their posture as part of their exercise program. Focus on keeping your shoulders back and down, your chest lifted, and your chin level.

It is also important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your walking sessions over time. This can help prevent injury and reduce the risk of overexertion.


Alternative exercises for people with scoliosis

While walking is generally considered a safe and effective exercise for people with scoliosis, it may not be suitable for everyone. Some people may find that other exercises are more beneficial or more comfortable for them.

For example, swimming and water aerobics are often recommended for people with scoliosis, as they provide a low-impact workout that is gentle on the joints and muscles. Yoga and Pilates can also be beneficial, as they focus on building strength, flexibility, and balance, all of which are important for maintaining good spinal health.

Ultimately, the best exercise program for people with scoliosis will depend on their individual needs and limitations. It is important to work with a healthcare professional to develop a safe and effective exercise program that takes into account any medical conditions, injuries, or other factors that may affect your ability to exercise.


Is walking a good choice for those with Scoliosis?

Walking can be a safe and effective exercise for people with scoliosis, as long as certain precautions are taken. Walking can help strengthen the muscles in the legs, hips, and back, improve balance and coordination, and provide a natural way to manage symptoms and improve overall quality of life.


Paul at SCOSYM, 2022

One of the most enjoyable aspects of working in a field which is growing and innovating as fast as the Scoliosis treatment space is getting to interact with, and learn from, a huge variety of specialists from different backgrounds, all working towards the common goal of developing the most effective Scoliosis treatment approaches possible. With this in mind, our founder, Paul Irvine will be in Greece next week to attend the 3rd SCOSYM Symposium.

Just one of many such events which are fast becoming critical landmarks for Scoliosis professionals everywhere, this meeting represents the 3rd SCOSYM Symposium in a series of successful meetings.

SCOSYM, like several non-surgically oriented events, recognises the tremendous contribution the traditional medical disciplines have made to scoliosis treatment, but also notes that the medical societies that specialize in this ailment have, to quote the organisers “tended to focus their efforts on the study of the epidemiology, aetiology, pathobiomechanic and laboratory, clinical and imaging documentation and treatment, either non-operative or operative.”  Critically for those attending SCOSYM then, it’s vital to recognise that the advent of new technologies is key to the study and advancement of our insight into these diseases, with a goal to improve the quality of life of this group of people.

This year, the conference is focused on these emerging technologies and the opportunities they bring, with a special view to recognising the impressive developments in the implementation of scoliosis school screening programs, physiotherapeutic-specific scoliosis exercises and new surgical approaches for growth modulation for the surgical treatment of early onset scoliosis (read more about all of these on our blog!)

Another key focus, and one which we’re pleased to see being recognised as an essential aspect of treatment for scoliosis, is quality of life – according to the organisers “These developments have led to better patient quality of life compared to what was experienced in the past. However, this topic is still under development and new instrumentation systems are being introduced.

When proper management is not implemented, spinal disorders may lead to significant social problems and to enormous economic losses. Therefore, treatment decisions based on the recent evidence-based literature will result in the optimum outcome. Proper management, including prevention and non-operative or operative treatment, must be tailored and implemented.”

Raising awareness is a core aspect of what we do at the UK Scoliosis clinic and SCOSYM is yet another fantastic event helping to do this, the conference notes that “It is, therefore, very important to increase awareness and advocacy for a social mission regarding the early detection of scoliosis and prevention of progressive spinal deformity. It is imperative to raise awareness about scoliosis and to inform the public, healthcare and policymaking communities about the individual, familial and societal burdens of spinal deformity, as well as the benefits of proper detection, diagnosis and optimal care for all patients.” – we couldn’t agree more!

Paul will be spending his time learning about the best and most promising new research to integrate into our own processes in the clinic, and perhaps enjoying a spot of good weather too!



Vibration Based Therapy for Scoliosis

Scoliosis researchers are nothing if not creative, and today we’re looking at a lesser-known, but interesting additional approach published in 2017.

In the field of physiotherapy in general, there has recently been a trend to incorporate vibration platforms into routines designed both for prevention and rehabilitation. Whole-body vibration (WBV) is a reflex-based neuromuscular form of training, and Side-alternating WBV (sWBV) is a special form of WBV which uses a “side to side” type of motion. It’s already known that this kind of vibration platform can be of use of physiotherapy, with studies reporting increased muscle force and power as well as effects on neural activity.[1][2][3]

The study authors point out that vibration-assisted exercises have the advantage of short training periods with a high number of muscular contractions/ repetitions, while the increasing availability of these kinds of vibration platforms make a home training program a real possibility. A home program also has the advantage of possible better compliance compared to frequent visits for supervised therapy programs. With these benefits in mind, this study sought to investigate the possibility of incorporating vibration therapy with Schroth based exercise and bracing for Scoliosis patients.


Study details

The study[4] was a randomised controlled trial, with assessments performed at month 0 and moth 6. The participants were randomly assigned to either a scoliosis specific exercise program on a vibrating platform or “treatment as usual” – here, normal Schroth exercise.

40 participants were recruited through the Paediatric Rehabilitation Centre, UniReha GmbH, University of Cologne, Germany in collaboration with the Department of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery, University of Cologne, Germany. Included were girls with moderate AIS (according to the SOSORT criteria) aged 10 to 17 years. Further inclusion criteria were: experience with auto-corrective physiotherapy (specifically Schroth) and use of a Chêneau brace at least 16 hours per day.

Participants of the intervention group received an introduction to the sWBV system and the exercises before the start of the home-training program. They received an exercise program including four different exercises: standing (16-20 Hz), sitting (18-25 Hz) and two different kneeling positions (10-20 Hz). Exercises were designed to incorporate auto-correction and stabilising physiotherapy. Each exercise was performed at home for three minutes (4×3 minutes) five times per week.

Each participant received an exercise folder containing photos of the exercises and individual adaptations according to the severity of curvature and a training schedule. Each participant documented the home-training program in a training log. For six weeks the participants received a weekly in-patient check; then the check-up frequency was reduced to bi-weekly. Serious unexpected events were recorded at each visit.

The participants of the control group were instructed to continue with their usual auto-corrective physiotherapy. This usually contains bi-weekly training under the supervision of a physical therapist and a daily home-training program. Schroth exercises focus on strengthening of the spinal musculature and elongating shortened muscles on the concave side of the spinal curvature.



The results from the study were certainly positive – and suggest that further research and experimentation with this method may well be worth considering. The major scoliosis curve in the sWBV group decreased significantly by -2.3°, compared to the difference in the control group of 0.3°. In the sWBV group 20% (n=4) improved, 75% (n=15) stabilized and 5% (n=1) deteriorated by ≥5°. In the control group 0% (n=0) improved, 89% (n=16) stabilized and 11% (n=2) deteriorated. The authors also observed that the clinically largest change was observed in the ‘before menarche’ sub-group.

While it’s important always to remember that a single study is not enough evidence to make a firm conclusion, this line of research is of great interest to us at the UK Scoliosis clinic, since we already utilise vibration-based therapy in treating other (non-scoliosis) conditions, and have observed results (in terms of speed of outcome) which are broadly consistent with these findings. We’ll be keeping this option under close review!


[1] Matute-Llorente A, Gonzalez-Aguero A, Gomez-Cabello A, Vicente-Rodriguez G, Casajus Mallen JA. Effect of whole-body vibration therapy on health-related physical fitness in children and adolescents with disabilities: A systematic review. J Adolesc Health. 2014;54:385–96.

[2] Cochrane DJ. The potential neural mechanisms of acute indirect vibration. J Sports Sci Med. 2011;10:19–30.

[3] Rittweger J, Mutschelknauss M, Felsenberg D. Acute changes in neuromuscular excitability after exhaustive whole body vibration exercise as compared to exhaustion by squatting exercise. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2003;23:81–6.

[4] Sina Langensiepen et al. Home-based vibration assisted exercise as a new treatment option for scoliosis – A randomised controlled trial J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2017 Dec; 17(4): 259–267.

What is Schroth best practice?

Schroth therapy is one of the oldest and most well-established approaches to Scoliosis – while it was once a somewhat niche approach (or at least viewed as such) in the years before significant research on non-surgical treatment options began to take place, today Schroth is a well-developed program backed by a great deal of scientific research – much of it supported by some of the most important names in the Scoliosis treatment field.

Schroth therapy has recently been “updated” and improved upon, taking into account more modern developments and research, this has been branded as the “Schroth best practice” program.

Schroth best practice offers not only an update to the traditional methods but also a simplification for the patient’s perspective. While the traditional Schroth therapy is still viewed in some circles as the best option for larger curves, Schroth best practice offers an easier to learn program effective for smaller curves. It has been shown by Borysov and Borysov[1] as well as in a paper by Lee 2014[2] that this new program can be highly effective.

These are just two more studies that show that Schroth therapy has real value for the right kind of patient – however, recent research has also called into the question the value of Schroth best practice, over the more traditional approach to Schroth.


Recent studies

A recent meta-analysis (that is to say, a study of studies[3]) looking at the overall effectiveness of Schroth based approaches have provided us with a timely reminder that the right treatment at the right time is critical – since contrary to the evidence from Borysov and Lee, this study found that the more traditional Schroth and Schroth 3d  treatment  programs actually have provided a more favourable effect than the newer best practice approach.

The finding is somewhat complex – among  15  studies that were included in this meta-analysis,  eight studies investigated general Schroth exercise, four studies investigated Schroth 3d treatment, and three studies investigated Schroth best practice. all 4 Schroth 3d treatment studies covered a 6 month (or longer) treatment period –  however,  only  1 Schroth best practice study was conducted over a 6 month period. The two other studies investigated  Schroth best practice treatment for  1   month and under 1 week. This is problematic since only “Bootcamp” style scoliosis treatment options actually provide treatment for under a month – and it’s widely recognised (including by the Schroth best practice school of thought) that longer duration treatment will be more effective – nonetheless, over the short term, the more traditional approaches appeared to be more effective.


From this, the study authors concluded that the improvements added to the Schroth best practice approach notwithstanding,  exercise duration is more important than the specific type of Schroth therapy being for overall results. [4]


Is Schroth best practice the way forward?

Schroth best practice is just one strand of treatment within the Schroth group of approaches – Like all approaches, some studies show better results and others, and, being a fairly new approach, it will also take some time for those truly long-duration studies to become available. At the UK Scoliosis clinic, we view Schroth best practice, like more traditional Schroth, as an excellent tool under the right circumstances. We believe in a wholly customised approach, taking the best from whichever therapy is most likely to assist the specific patient in question. What is clear, however, is that just as with bracing, choosing a treatment approach and sticking with it over time is critical for success in non-surgical scoliosis treatment.

[1] Maksym Borysov* and Artem Borysov Scoliosis short-term rehabilitation (SSTR) according to ‚Best Practice’standards-are the results repeatable? Scoliosis 2012, 7:1

[2] Lee  SG.  Improvement  of  curvature  and  deformity  in  a  sample  of patients with Idiopathic Scoliosis with specific exercises. OA Musculoskeletal Medicine 2014 Mar 12;2(1):6

[3] Joo-hee parK et al. Effects of the schroth exercise on idiopathic scoliosis:  a meta-analysis European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine 2018 June;54(3):440-9

[4] Joo-hee parK et al. Effects of the schroth exercise on idiopathic scoliosis:  a meta-analysis European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine 2018 June;54(3):440-9

Is scoliosis a risk factor for mental health?

Like all reputable clinics, the UK scoliosis clinic focuses the majority of its time and effort on providing the best possible treatment for scoliosis cases. For the most part, this means keeping up with the latest research, bracing and exercise based techniques which can assist in controlling and reducing scoliosis, however, where we also concentrate a lot of time and attention is to the psychological aspects of living with and being treated for scoliosis.


Scoliosis and Psychological factors

Like any condition, Scoliosis can obviously cause distress and concern – but there are some specific factors associated with scoliosis which may make the condition especially difficult for many patients to cope with. The key areas include:

  • The fact that Scoliosis does cause physical deformity, and very often strikes at the most sensitive time in a young person’s life. It’s normal and expected for teens and young adults to experience stress and difficulty associated with physical changes in their body and the formation of their adult identity, even under typical circumstances – scoliosis can certainly complicate this.
  • Misinformation about scoliosis which is frequently repeated. Many still believe that a diagnosis of scoliosis necessitates surgery, which, ironically, can prevent some people from taking advantage of screening. It’s also commonly believed that scoliosis can impact on the ability to have children, take part in physical activity or even live a normal life. While it’s true that if left untreated scoliosis could lead to some of these outcomes, early treatment can often make such outcomes almost completely avoidable.
  • Concerns about bracing, and stigma associated with bracing. It’s certainly the case that “old style” braces such as the Boston brace were visible, clunky and certainly embarrassing for young people – but modern CAD/CAM braces, such as ScoliBrace, are virtually invisible under clothing.
  • Fear of being unable to participate in normal activities. Again, with modern bracing technology this is rarely if ever, an issue – today’s braces are so easy to put on and take off that they can simply be removed for exercise, although designs such as ScoliBrace are actually flexible enough to be left on.

With each of these concerns, the critical point to stress is that Scoliosis, if caught early enough can now usually be treated non-surgically and quite quickly, through bracing, exercise or a combination of both. The best possible way to detect scoliosis is through a routine screening, which can often allow the condition to be detected long before it has progressed to a significant degree.


Scoliosis and psychological health : scientific research

There has been some limited research which has sought to understand the impact that scoliosis can have on a young person’s psychological health – although it’s still fair to say that only a small part of the literature relating to scoliosis considers this angle, there is still sufficient a body of evidence for us to draw some meaningful conclusions.

One such study looked at adolescents with and without scoliosis in Minnesota who were 12 through 18 years of age. During the study, six hundred eighty-five cases of scoliosis were identified from the 34,706 adolescents. The prevalence was therefore 1.97%  (incidentally, this is slightly below the average figure). The researchers wanted to calculate the odds ratio of scoliosis to some common psychological issues.

Put simply, an odds ratio is a measure of how strongly related two items are – An odds ratio of more than 1 means that there are a higher odds of property B happening with exposure to property A, whereas an odds ratio of exactly 1 means that exposure to property A does not affect the odds of property B. An odds ratio is less than 1 is associated with lower odds of two factors being related. [1]

In the study, of the 685 adolescents with scoliosis, the odds ratio for having suicidal thought among adolescents with scoliosis, compared to adolescents without scoliosis, was 1.40 after adjustment for race, gender, socioeconomic status, and age. The odds ratio for having feelings about poor body development among adolescents with scoliosis was 1.82 compared with adolescents without scoliosis after adjustment for race, gender, socioeconomic status, and age. Scoliosis was therefore deemed to be an independent risk factor for suicidal thought, worry and concern over body development, and peer interactions.

In a 2019 study, which compared scoliosis treatment approaches, the SRS-22 (a standardised scoliosis quality of life screening form) was used to explore the impact which treatment had on psychological health.  Here, researchers noticed that self-image was significantly improved amongst patients treated with a scoliosis brace, especially at a follow up after 12 months of treatment, this was especially interesting given the negative self-image association which is sometimes linked to bracing

Researchers found a similar improvement in patients treated with an exercise methodology –  all the SRS-22 quality of life subsets showed a slightly larger improvement across the three visits than bracing, although the correction of scoliosis was less.[2]


Does scoliosis affect psychological health?

From the research which has been conducted, as well as our own experience at the clinic we feel it’s safe to say that scoliosis can be a significant risk factor for psychological health – especially in young people. While this certainly does not mean that everyone with scoliosis will struggle with mental health as a result, it’s clearly important that scoliosis clinicians are aware of the risk, and work to mitigate it.

At the UK Scoliosis clinic, we believe that properly researched information, coupled with effective treatment, applied as quickly as possible is the best possible way to address the psychological risks associated with scoliosis. It’s for this reason that we continue to recommend frequent screening throughout high risk years. It cannot be stressed enough that early detection, coupled with good information can go the majority of the distance in diffusing some of the  main concerns around a scoliosis diagnosis. We would caution parents and sufferers from relying on general advice or information pulled from the internet – the best option is by far a consultation with a scoliosis professional.

[1] Payne, William K. III, MD, et al. Does Scoliosis Have a Psychological Impact and Does Gender Make a Difference? Spine: June 15, 1997 – Volume 22 – Issue 12 – p 1380–1384

[2] Yu Zheng, MD PhD et al. Whether orthotic management and exercise are equally effective to the patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in Mainland China? – A randomized controlled trial study SPINE: An International Journal for the study of the spine [Publish Ahead of Print]

Is exercise recommended for people with scoliosis?

The role of sport and exercise as it relates to scoliosis and its treatment is a complex one. It has been known for some time that participants in some activities, such as gymnastics, seem to have a higher risk of developing scoliosis – at the same time, it has also long been suggested that exercises such swimming could help to reduce scoliosis. These are just two examples of the seemingly contradictory information available on scoliosis and exercise – this week, we summarise the latest findings and guidelines.


Do some forms of exercise cause scoliosis?

At present, there is certainly evidence to suggest that participants in some activities, such as gymnastics or dance have a higher chance of developing scoliosis. Indeed, research suggests that gymnasts are up to 12 times more likely to develop scoliosis than non-gymnasts on the whole.[1] There is a 10-fold higher incidence of scoliosis among rhythmic gymnasts[2] and an increased incidence of scoliosis has been reported in ballet dancers (24%)[3] What this observation does strongly suggest is the value of regular scoliosis screening for those involved in gymnastics, ballet and other forms of exercise which involve much contortion of the body and spine. What this evidence does not necessarily mean is that gymnastics causes scoliosis, since correlation does not necessarily mean causation.

While it does seem as though patients with scoliosis are more likely to participate in sports like gymnastics[4] it is now thought that this is because patients with scoliosis tend to have a higher prevalence of joint laxity than the general population this makes them more flexible[5], which would be a natural advantage in these activities. Therefore, avoiding such activities probably won’t do anything to prevent or avoid scoliosis.


Isn’t exercise good for everyone?

At the risk of providing a very simplistic answer, yes. Almost all scoliosis clinicians agree that those with scoliosis should actively take part in sport and physical activities[6]. This is not least because the psychological and social aspects of exercise are shown to be related to the patient’s self-image in a positive way[7] – indeed, it has also been reported that persons with scoliosis who exercise regularly, show higher self-esteem and have better psychological outcomes from treatment[8]. Therefore, SOSORT also recommends that patients with scoliosis should remain active in sports activities[9], especially since, as outlined above, participation does not seem to directly affect the occurrence or degree of scoliosis[10].


Can exercise cure scoliosis?

Tired out girl

Specialised forms of exercise can treat scoliosis, but most forms of exercise still make a positive contribution to health !

It was once thought that a range of everyday exercises may be beneficial for scoliosis suffers – today the picture s more refined. For example, it was once widely reported that popular forms of general exercise, such as swimming (which has traditionally been recommended as a good sports activity for scoliosis and even prescribed by some physicians as a treatment),could be a possible corrective approach. Now we know that swimming does not seem to have any positive effect on scoliosis, although its certainly a great low-impact form of exercise, and a lot of fun!

To return to the point about causation and correlation, there is also at least one older study from 1983, which screened 336 competitive adolescent swimmers for scoliosis and found the prevalence of scoliosis to be 6.9%[11], which is more than double the average. Despite this, there is no evidence to suggest that swimming is a causative factor of scoliosis.

If general exercise does not seem to improve scoliosis, is there an approach that can? In fact, there are several forms of specialised exercise which have now been developed with the sole aim of reducing and controlling scoliosis – these are the Schroth and SEAS approaches, both of which have proven to be successful alone, and far more successful when combined with bracing. You can learn much more about both approaches on our site – but for more information please don’t hesitate to get in touch!



[1] Prevalence and predictors of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in adolescent ballet dancers’

Longworth B., Fary R., Hopper D, Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014 Sep;95(9):1725-30. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2014.02.027. Epub 2014 Mar 21

[2] Tanchev PI, Dzherov AD, Parushev AD, Dikov DM, Todorov MB. Scoliosis in rhythmic gymnasts. Spine. 2000;25(11):1367–72.

[3] Warren MP, Brooks-Gunn J, Hamilton LH, Warren LF, Hamilton WG. Scoliosis and fractures in young ballet dancers. Relation to delayed menarche and secondary amenorrhea. N Engl J Med. 1986;314(21):1348–53.

[4] Meyer C, Cammarata E, Haumont T, Deviterne D, Gauchard GC, Leheup B, et al. Why do idiopathic scoliosis patients participate more in gymnastics? Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2006;16(4):231–6.
Meyer C, Haumont T, Gauchard GC, Leheup B, Lascombes P, Perrin PP. The practice of physical and sporting activity in teenagers with idiopathic scoliosis is related to the curve type. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2008;18(6):751–5.

[5] Kesten S, Garfinkel SK, Wright T, Rebuck AS. Impaired exercise capacity in adults with moderate scoliosis. Chest. 1991;99(3):663–6.

[6] Liljenqvist U, Witt K-A, Bullmann V, Steinbeck J, Völker K. Empfehlungen zur Sportausübung bei Patienten mit idiopathischer Skoliose. Sportverletz Sportschaden. 2006;20(01):36–42.

[7] Fällström K, Cochran T, Nachemson A. Long-term effects on personality development in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Influence of type of treatment. Spine. 1986;11(7):756–8.

[8] Liljenqvist U, Witt K-A, Bullmann V, Steinbeck J, Völker K. Empfehlungen zur Sportausübung bei Patienten mit idiopathischer Skoliose. Sportverletz Sportschaden. 2006;20(01):36–42.

[9] Negrini S, Aulisa L, Ferraro C, Fraschini P, Masiero S, Simonazzi P, et al. Italian guidelines on rehabilitation treatment of adolescents with scoliosis or other spinal deformities. Eura Medicophys. 2005;41(2):183–201.

[10] Kenanidis E, Potoupnis ME, Papavasiliou KA, Sayegh FE, Kapetanos GA. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and exercising: is there truly a liaison? Spine. 2008;33(20):2160–5.

[11] Becker TJ. Scoliosis in swimmers. Clin Sports Med. 1986;5(1):149–58.

There’s an app for that – why technology can’t replace clinicians just yet!

A number of the conditions we treat here at the clinic (but most commonly Scoliosis and Kyphosis) are often treated at least in part with an exercise program. In some cases, the exercise program might be a primary line of treatment, whereas in other instances it is used as a support mechanism.

Here at the clinic, we will usually provide an exercise prescription which patients should then undertake each day at home. Sometimes this is the correct approach, but one of the most significant problems posed by this approach is exercise adherence. The simple fact is that programs such as Schroth or SEAS do not work if they are not performed every day and for the correct amount of time.

At the UK Scoliosis clinic, we work to avoid this problem by staying in touch with our patients and scheduling regular check-up appointments, but exercise adherence is still a significant factor in determining treatment success.

In recent years, it has often been argued that either an app or computer program might replace the role of the clinician in encouraging exercise adherence. It’s certainly an attractive idea, however as yet, the research indicates this approach is not practical.


There’s an app for that

There’s no question that augmenting face to face treatment with software-based approaches has great promise, and it certainly stands to reason that apps could have the potential to play an essential role in promoting exercise adherence in the future. Apps can monitor patients remotely, are cheap, can provide reminders, and can enable feedback to patients. Many of us also now use apps for fitness purposes, either as exercise trackers, heart rate monitors or in place of a traditional personal trainer. Despite this, app-based exercise programs have not been widely incorporated in rehabilitation for adolescents with musculoskeletal disorders[1]

So far, research has not suggested that apps have been particularly effective as a replacement for traditional contact with professionals more generally –  a recent systematic review showed limited evidence regarding the effectiveness of using apps to increase physical activity in adolescents[2]. Furthermore, apps aimed at increasing physical activity in adolescents were not effective[3].


Exercise adherence in Hyperkyphosis

Scoliosis and Kyphosis can both be disruptive conditions

One of the conditions we treat at our clinic is Hyperkyphosis. While hyperkyphosis is sometimes seen as less serious than Scoliosis, research shows that adolescents with hyperkyphosis have decreased quality-of-life (particularly the self-image and appearance components[4]. Hyperkyphosis is also associated with back pain in long-term follow-up studies[5]. Hyperkyphosis is often treated with an exercise prescription, either in advance of bracing or as a complementary approach.  Milder cases of Hyperkyphosis have been shown to respond well to exercise-based programs – although the biggest issue is ensuring that patients adhere to their exercise plan.



A Kyphosis case study

Given that few attempts have been made to use apps specifically to treat musculoskeletal conditions, a recent study was set up to assess the potential of an app-based exercise program for adolescents with Hyperkyphosis and back pain[6].

App usage was not impressive in the study

The study focused on 21 participants, between 10 and18. All of the participants were given an initial one-time exercise treatment session and were instructed to continue using an app provided for the study to track and guide their home-based exercise over  a period of 6 months.

After participants logged in to the app, they were shown their prescribed exercises by image and exercise name. To perform an exercise, users only had to click on the exercise, which shows the same picture and written instructions on how to perform the exercise. The prescribed amount of time counts down similar to an interval timer while the participant performs the exercise.

Although the format was relatively simple, and the exercise sessions prescribed only lasted approximately 15 minutes a day, the study shows that most participants did not use the app. One participant did not have a Smartphone or tablet, this participant did participate in the exercise program, and logged exercise adherence on a sheet of paper. One participant complied with the program 100%, but the remaining participants either did not use the app or used it less than once per week. When investigators questioned the participants about their usage, they also indicated themselves that they used the app less than weekly.  Unsurprisingly, the patient’s quality of life scores (measured with the SRS-22 form) did not significantly improve over the 6 months.


What can we learn from these results?

These results serve mainly to confirm what has been suspected for some time – many users just do not stick to their exercise program, absent encouragement and mentorship from scoliosis or kyphosis professional.  For parents of children with kyphosis or scoliosis, the critical question is therefore whether exercise-based approaches are the most suitable treatment, given that adherence to the program is so important. In some instances, parents may prefer to opt for a kyphosis or scoliosis brace, which does not suffer from these same issues.

Does this mean apps are useless in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders? Almost certainly not  – some apps, such as our ScoliScreen allow users to perform an initial diagnosis of their scoliosis, and monitor their conditions. The study discussed here did also show that the app had a positive effect on the study participant who fully committed to the exercise program, which suggests that a combination of an app and personal encouragement from a clinician may be a superior way forward.  At the UK Scoliosis clinic, we are always researching the best way to give a superior experience to our patients, and apps are a field that we are investigating with interest!


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[2] van Sluijs EMF, McMinn AM, Griffin SJ. Effectiveness of interventions to promote physical activity in children and adolescents: systematic review of controlled trials. BMJ. 2007;335(7622):703.

[3] Direito A, Jiang Y, Whittaker R, Maddison R. Apps for IMproving FITness and increasing physical activity among young people: the AIMFIT pragmatic randomized controlled trial. J Med Internet Res. 2015;17(8):e210.

[4] Petcharaporn M, Pawelek J, Bastrom T, Lonner B, Newton PO. The relationship between thoracic hyperkyphosis and the Scoliosis Research Society outcomes instrument. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2007;32(20):2226–31.

Lonner B, Yoo A, Terran JS, et al. Effect of spinal deformity on adolescent quality of life comparison of operative Scheuermann’s kyphosis, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and normal controls. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013;38(12):1049–55.

[5] Murray P, Weinstein S, Spratt KF. Natural history and long-term follow-up of Scheuermann kyphosis. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1993;75A(2):236–48.

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[6] Karina A. Zapata, Sharon S. Wang-Price, Tina S. Fletcher and Charles E. Johnston Factors influencing adherence to an app-based exercise program in adolescents with painful hyperkyphosis Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders 201813:11

New research – Scoliosis impacts functional capacity

Tired out girl

Scoliosis can make exercise more difficult

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is by far the most common cause of spinal deviation; it comprises about 80% of all idiopathic vertebral deformities and affects 2%–4% of adolescents.[1] The exact cause of AIS is still being investigated, but scientists generally agree that it is largely determined by genes that are activated by different factors.

When thinking about how we should direct the treatment of scoliosis, we often tend to focus on the well-known potential outcomes of the condition if left untreated- these include physical deformity, disability, pain and discomfort.  What we often forgotten is the impact that scoliosis can have in terms of overall health and fitness.

As it stands, research has already confirmed that that scoliosis influences factors like ease of breathing during exercise in a negative way[2] However, brand new research just published in the Journal of Paediatric exercise science now allows us to understand the degree to which cobb angle (the degree of the scoliotic curve) actually has an impact.

The research conducted at the Federal University of São Paulo in 2018, hypothesised that Individuals with scoliosis would have lower exercise tolerance in cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) and in the incremental shuttle walk test (ISWT) – a suggestion which has already been confirmed in preceding studies.[3]  Researchers then sought to evaluate the functional capacity (that is to say, the ability of the participants bodies to cope with exercise) in patients with AIS with specific regard to the functional capacity and respiratory variables in patients with different degrees of scoliosis severity.



The study tested a cross section of participants with varying degrees of scoliosis severity. The group included eighteen patients with mild and moderate scoliosis, 8 patients with severe scoliosis, and 10 adolescents from a control group. Patients were selected from the Orthopaedic Clinic at a local hospital, and  they  were  submitted for radiography to evaluate the Cobb angles prior to the study.

In order to ensure the results were relevant and valid, patients were excluded if they had a previous or current history of heart, lung diseases or neuromuscular disorder, cognitive changes that influenced the understanding of tests, and all those who failed to perform the assessment proposed.



A 54 Degree Cobb angle (X-ray)

During the ISWT participants are asked to walk between two cones, placed 10 meters apart. Participants aim to match the pace provided by a simple beeping prompt. In this study, each of the partcipants performed the test twice, in order to try to ensure more even results.

Heart rate, blood pressure and fatigue were measured by modified Borg scale before and after the test[4]. The results of the study were conclusive. In the study, patients with AIS definitely performed worse than test subjects without scoliosis. Those with scoliosis found the test harder (more physically taxing) and also displayed a lower level of respiratory function. What’s more, the performance of the individuals with scoliosis was worse in individuals with a more severe cobb angle. Overall, patients with AIS walked shorter distance during the ISWT when compared with adolescents without scoliosis. Patients with  AIS > 45°  and  AIS < 45°  walked,  respectively, 156 m and 117 m less than the control group.

This study therefore identified that patients with severe scoliosis present worse functional capacity and, perhaps of greatest interest, it draws attention to the fact that even patients with mild and moderate scoliosis already show a significant reduction in functional capacity.


What we learn from this study.

At the UK scoliosis clinic, we are committed to ensuring that all our approach to treating scoliosis is always grounded in the most up to date scientific research available. From the results of the study there are two important take-aways.

In the first instance, the study goes to show the degree to which even a minor case of scoliosis (of the sort which may respond particularly well to bracing) may impact the quality of life and capability of an individual to participate in exercise – both for health-related purposes, and indeed as a social exercise. This is particularly interesting given that the authors of this study also noted a correlation between individuals with scoliosis and low exercise participation rates. Specifically the authors note “Adolescents with scoliosis for some reason are physically unconditioned; some authors believe that this fact is related only to the low adherence of individuals to physical activity, mainly due to the constraint of the disease deformity” .  This research therefore goes to underscore the importance of early intervention in dealing with cases of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.

Secondly, this study (by its methodology) suggest that the ISWT can be a valuable tool for assessing functional capacity in patients with AIS. As a relatively low-cost but widely applicable test, the ISWT may therefore be worth further consideration within the scoliosis treatment community. Dr Irvine is keen to follow up on this insight and will be considering its possible applications within our clinic.


The main source article for this post was:

 SARAIVA, BA; et al. “Impact of Scoliosis Severity on Functional Capacity in Patients With Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis”. Pediatric Exercise Science. 30, 2, 243-250, May 2018



[1] Weinstein SL, Dolan LA, Cheng JCY, Danielsson A, Morcuende JA. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Lancet. 2008;371:1527–37. PubMed doi:10.1016/S0140-6736 (08)60658-3


[2] Sperandio EF, Alexandre AS, Yi LC, et al. Functional aerobic exercise capacity limitation in adolescent idio- pathic scoliosis. Spine J. 2014;14(10):2366–72. PubMed doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2014.01.041


[3] Sperandio EF, Alexandre AS, Yi LC, et al. Functional aerobic exercise capacity limitation in adolescent idio- pathic scoliosis. Spine J. 2014;14(10):2366–72. PubMed doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2014.01.041


Sperandio EF, Vidotto MC, Alexandre AS, Yi LC, Gotfryd AO, Dourado VZ. Exercise capacity, lung function and chest wall shape in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Fisioter Mov. 2015;28(3):563–72. doi:10.1590/0103-5150.028.003.AO15


Barrios C, Pérez-Encinas C, Maruenda JI, Laguía M. Significant ventilatory functional restriction in adoles- cents with mild or moderate scoliosis during maximal exercise tolerance test. Spine. 2005;30(14):1610–5. doi:10.1097/01.brs.0000169447.55556.01


Bas P, Romagnoli M, Gomez-Cabrera MC, et al. Beneficial effects of aerobic training in adolescent patients with mod- erate idiopathic scoliosis. Eur Spine J. 2011;20 Suppl 3: 415–9. PubMed doi:10.1007/s00586-011-1902-7


[4] Hommerding PX, Donadio MV, Paim TF, Marostica PJ. The Borg scale is accurate in children and adolescents older than 9 years with cystic fibrosis. Respir Care. 2010;55(6):729–33. PubMed