What is scoliosis?

By: Dr. Jorge Esocobedo

Scoliosis is a three-dimensional curvature of the spine that occurs most often during or shortly after puberty affecting girls at a much higher frequency than boys and higher risk of worsening. It is estimated that about 3% of adolescents have scoliosis.Scoliosis is a three-dimensional curvature of the spine that occurs most often during or shortly after puberty affecting girls at a much higher frequency than boys and higher risk of worsening. It is estimated that about 3% of adolescents have scoliosis.

Although the cause is unknown for the most common type of idiopathic scoliosis, it appears to have a hereditary component. Adults can also develop scoliosis later in life primarily due to the degeneration of the discs, arthritis of the spine and surrounding joints and wedging of the disc spaces that can cause significant disability & pain.

Adults with idiopathic scoliosis have more symptoms than teenagers because of the wear & tear of the discs & joints resulting in narrowing of the openings for the spinal sac & nerves. Mid-back pain, low back pain & stiffness are the most common symptoms. This condition often may go undetected at first because there is no pain or you may notice a hump on one side of the spine, one shoulder or hip maybe higher than the other side.  If you suspect you have this condition or beginning to have back pain consult your physician.

The Schroth Method for scoliosis is a conservative three-dimensional exercise approach to elongate the trunk and correct muscle imbalance of the spine. These exercises are very specifically designed to strengthen and balance the inner muscles of the rib cage to change the shape of the upper trunk and to correct or minimize any spinal abnormalities. The Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) and the Spinal Orthopaedic & Rehabilitation Treatment (SOSORT)  support the role of this Schroth method for scoliosis treatment and its superiority from other general exercises.

What are the goals when applying this Schroth method? – Eliminate pain- Improve vital capacity-pulmonary function- Improve postural alignment- Prevent the progression of the scoliosis curves – Boost self-Image-aesthetics- Mobilization of stiff spine, ribs, and other bodyparts.- Teach activities of daily living- Improve neuromuscular control- Increase muscle strength and endurance.

This treatment approach can be used to treat patients of ALL AGES who have been diagnosed with scoliosis including those patients that have gone through surgery. This method is not effective or applicable on those patients that have been diagnosed with scoliosis because of neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, spinal bifida etc. For this to be effective, the patient should be able to understand instructions given by the therapist.

The initial evaluation usually takes 1 to 2 hours and it is required patients bring a CD copy of the most recent scoliosis-series x-rays.  The Schroth-Certified Physical Therapist will design a specific three-dimensional exercise program that includes resistive breathing-training techniques based on the type curve pattern. Treatment sessions are 1 hour long, and total sessions may range from 10-20 sessions depending on the severity of the deformity and the type of scoliosis curve. Patients are encouraged to bring comfortable clothes such as T-shirts, sports bra, and shorts.