Do you remember going to those dreaded school physicals every few years? Usually, the worst part was wondering how many shots you were going to need that year. However, for some, when the doctor asked them to bend forward and touch their toes their lives would change forever. This simple test, called the Adam’s test, allows the doctor to get a better look at the spine and evaluate any curvature present. This is typically the first time a child will hear that they will need x-rays and further evaluation for scoliosis.
Scoliosis is defined as a lateral, or sideways curvature of the spine of more than 10 degrees, and is typically diagnosed between 10 and 12 years old. Currently, the most accepted treatments for scoliosis are bracing, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and spinal fusion surgery.
Many kids and parents will wonder why physical therapy care is any different than having their kids play their favorite sports and staying physically active. Although fun, most sports do not actually help a child with scoliosis build and strengthen the muscles they need. The only sport found to aid in fighting any future increase in curvature of the spine is swimming. This is because swimming gives the body a chance to take a break from fighting gravity and helps to build strong back musculature. On the other hand, patient-centered, scoliosis-specific physical therapy treatment fights the increasing curvature of the spine by strengthening the muscles of the spine asymmetrically.
Why asymmetrically? Picture a normal spine. It is straight, and the muscles on either side of the spine tend to be of equal length and strength. Now, take that straight spine and turn it into the letter “S” or “C.” In our diagram, the muscles on the left side of the “C” are lengthened and weak while the muscles on the right side of the spine are shortened and strong. If we were to treat these muscles identically, the curve would stay the same or worsen. However, if the left and right sides are treated according to their separate dysfunctions, physical therapy can make a greater impact in working against the curve.
The good news is – physical therapy is impactful during all phases of the condition. It doesn’t matter if you are in the earlier bracing stage or if you have recently had surgery. Physical therapy almost always has an answer – no matter what stage of scoliosis you sit in. Depending on where you are at with your condition, your physical therapist will being to tailor together an individualized plan that considers the severity of your case.
Physical therapy treatments for Scoliosis can include:
- Strength Training: Your physical therapist will focus on strengthening your core, as well as any other adjoining muscles near the affected area. Other zones for focus include the hips, shoulders, head, and feet.
- Range of Motion Exercises: This fluctuates with severity of condition, but your physical therapist will provide you with range of motion treatment guidance that will help address any functional limitations of your scoliosis.
- Manual Therapy: A physical therapist will also aim to restore functionality to joints, muscles, and other soft tissues that have been affected by your scoliosis. They will often use their own two hands to help retrain your body into performing healthier movement patterns.
Scoliosis is a challenging condition that typically leaves parents and children with more questions than answers. Are you currently suffering from the symptoms of scoliosis? If you or a loved one has scoliosis and has further questions, please talk to your physician or physical therapist. An Axes physical therapist will always put you on a plan that best suits your needs so you can rest assured that you are receiving the best care for your individual case.