Schroth Scoliosis Rehabilitation

You truly take your spine for granted until you have back pain. The spine is designed to give us maximum flexibility over its 33 vertebrae, or spinal bones, that allow us to bend, flex and rotate to move about the world and do the things that we love. Unfortunately, sometimes the spinal column can become misaligned and lead to pain that can take us away from the things we love, or make everyday life a struggle.

What is Scoliosis?

Your spine has normal curves from front to back such that if you look at someone from a side view, their spine will form a slight S-shaped curve from their neck to their tailbone. When you look at their back head-on, however, their spine travels in a straight line. If there is an asymmetry of the strength and length of the spinal muscles, then the entire back will be pulled in one direction or another, creating a curve to the side. This is scoliosis, where the spine is curved from side to side, not just front to back. Scoliosis can create a host of problems as such a curve in the spine disrupts the position of the shoulders, the pelvis, and the entire ribcage.

Scoliosis can be either a minor inconvenience or debilitating problem. Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine, which is supposed to be straight from side to side, that often presents in teenagers during their growth spurts. Scoliosis is more common in girls than in boys, and affects approximately 3% of the population. The spine can become curved minorly or severely in one or both directions, creating a C or S curve from side to side. Scoliosis is diagnosed by a doctor via x-rays and often has a genetic component, although sometimes it is the result of other nerve or muscular conditions. A health care provider will perform a detailed assessment to gain an understanding of how scoliosis affects the individual’s gait, and to assess for any underlying conditions.

A severe curvature of the spine can affect other bodily functions in someone who has scoliosis. Other than back and neck pain, scoliosis can cause constipation, or breathing or heart issues, if the curvature of the spine is severe enough to compress other organs. If the organs are misplaced to a severe degree, menstruation can even be more painful in girls and women with scoliosis. Scoliosis can limit a person’s mobility and movements, depending on its severity. With restriction in the ribcage, a person with scoliosis may have decreased lung and heart capacity which may limit their physical activity levels. Most people, however, experience scoliosis as back pain and concerns with their appearance. A larger spinal curve poses a higher risk for progression of this condition.

What are Current Treatment Options for Scoliosis?

Medical management of scoliosis includes bracing, medications for pain, and surgery, which is only required for severe cases. An increasingly popular option for scoliosis rehabilitation is corrective exercises. This is where the Schroth method is useful.

The Schroth method was developed by Katharina Schroth, who suffered from scoliosis, and developed exercises to improve her condition. When she successfully treated her scoliosis through breathing and muscle exercises, Schroth, with the help of her daughter, founded a clinic and began teaching this method.

Schroth Scoliosis Rehabilitation is a recognized physical therapy method of corrective exercises to realign the spine in scoliosis. Since each person’s presentation of scoliosis is different, each Schroth exercise program is different, but the goal is to affect the muscles surrounding the spine in order to reduce the curvature. The goal of the exercises is to straighten the spine by elongating and de-rotating the curve or curves, and then assure the spine is stable and remains straight while moving throughout the day.

The goal of these rehabilitation exercises is to:

  • Restore symmetry of the muscles
    • Since the curve of the spine both influences, and is influenced by, the back muscles, it is crucial to treat these tissues. With scoliosis, muscles on one side of the spine may become very stiff, tight, and overbuilt, while the others will become weak and may shrink. Schroth exercises can help rebuild weak muscles and return flexibility to muscles that are too strong.
  • Teach breathing and awareness to improve spinal alignment
    • Rotational angular breathing is a cornerstone of Schroth treatment, where the therapist instructs the patient to learn how to rotate the spine with the breath to help retrain the spine to rotate on the correct plane. The result is a gradual re-shaping of the ribcage and the muscles, ligaments and joints that surround the tissues.
  • Restore postural alignment
    • Patients with scoliosis must maintain their progress by focusing on keeping proper posture. Katharine Schroth used mirrors to help her patients self-correct their posture and movements. When performing regular daily activities, the patient must focus on correct posture in order to minimize pain and ensure their spinal improvements remain.

What to Expect from Schroth Scoliosis Rehabilitation

A typical program in the Schroth Scoliosis method lasts between five and 20 sessions depending on the severity of the patient’s condition. The primary goal of the program is to prevent the worsening of the spinal curvature. Patients can expect posture correction, reduced pain, increased core strength and spinal stability, easier and deeper breathing, better movement patterns and gait, including alignment of the pelvis. These benefits help significantly improve quality of life and reduce pain for those with scoliosis.

This physical therapy is complementary to bracing techniques, especially for youth, and can be effective in combination to reduce the chances of needing surgery. However, as with all exercise programs, the Schroth method requires upkeep. Patients must continue their exercises in order to reap the benefits of this rehabilitative program.

If you or a loved one experience scoliosis, don’t hesitate to visit us, we want to empower you to feel better. You can book a consult with one of our therapists to see if they’re the right fit for you.