What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a condition where there is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. Although the spine has natural curves, it should look straight when viewed from the back. In scoliosis, the curves are often described as C or S shaped, as the bones in the spine rotate on themselves.
Scoliosis is more common in females than males, and is most likely to develop during adolescence: prior to, or during growth spurts. However, scoliosis can begin to form from birth and continue to develop as you age, as degenerative changes occur during late adulthood.
To be classified as scoliosis, the sideways curvature needs to be greater than 10°. A Physiotherapist will assess the degree of the curve, and determine the most suitable method for treatment.
What causes scoliosis?
In 80% of cases the cause of scoliosis in unknown – this is called idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis can be further classified into subgroups, determined by the age of onset. Other causes of scoliosis, which are less common, include congenital (present from birth) or neuromuscular (disorder of the nerves or muscles), while the role of genetics is being investigated.
- Sideways curve of the spine
- Tilted hip/shoulder position (as if leaning to one side)
- Local muscular aches and pains
- Inflammation in the spine
- Difficulties breathing due to a compressed lung position
The role of physiotherapy in the treatment of scoliosis
The aim of Physiotherapy in the treatment of scoliosis is to maintain or limit the progression of the curves, as well as pain management strategies. Although reversing scoliosis may be impossible in some cases, a Physiotherapist can assist you in other ways. Depending on the severity of the curves in your spine, treatment may focus on stretches, range of motion and mobility exercises, stabilisation, and postural awareness and correction.
In cases of scoliosis where the child is young, and still growing, bracing may be considered. This aims to limit the development of the curves, while still allowing the body to grow. The brace can be adjusted to fit as the body continues to grow.
In more severe cases, surgical options may be discussed to stabilise the spine and limit the progression of the curve. Following surgery, Physiotherapy is recommended to develop strength and appropriate movement around the spine, and return to normal daily activities.
A Physiotherapist can determine the severity of your scoliosis by performing assessment techniques to measure your curves. From these measurements, as well as the goals you want to achieve, a treatment plan can be discussed and implemented.
Blog by Kirra Smith (Physiotherapist)