EXERCISE AND SCOLIOSIS
Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine, which frequently shows up as either an ‘S’ or a ‘C’ shape on x-ray. It is most often managed by observation, bracing or spinal surgery. There is a current body of research however, that supports the use of scoliosis specific exercise as:
• a stand alone therapy to prevent the need for bracing
• a way of reducing the risk of bracing in small to medium risk curves, and
• as an adjunct to bracing during growth in order to improve correction*
One of these scoliosis specific exercise modalities is known as the Schroth Method. It was developed by pioneering German physiotherapist Katharina Schroth (who herself had scoliosis) over years of treating people with varying degrees of scoliosis. Seeing the before and after pictures of clients treated at the Schroth clinic in Germany is quite remarkable, and Schroth techniques are now taught and used worldwide.
Both the origin and degree of spinal curvature, as well as the demands each person has placed upon his or her spine (through injuries, stress, aging etc.) have an effect on the unique and often complex ways scoliosis shows up in the body. That being said, research infers that employing a consistent exercise program in scoliosis management may:
• Reduce curvatures by up to 1/3
• Decrease pain
• Increase lung capacity and chest expansion
• Decrease progression of curvature
• Significantly decrease the likelihood of spinal fusion surgery**
CORRECTIVE EXERCISE FOR SCOLIOSIS
The way I work with scoliosis is directly influenced by studying with physiotherapist Dr. Suzanne Martin and noted scoliosis expert Karena Thek Lineback. Some of the Schroth Method principles have been adapted for the pilates equipment, and small wedges and other props are used to help de-rotate and decompress the spine into a more neutral alignment. A series of Pilates-based exercises in combination with specific breathing techniques are then utilized to strengthen the body in this more functionally aligned position. Consistent repetition is necessary to prevent the body from returning to the position it knows best, and clients are taught a number of exercises to take home with them to practice.
While options range from the development of a personal home program to private and small group training, a series of 3-5 one to one lessons to begin with is recommended. This enables each person to learn how to use the props and equipment to best serve the needs and complexities of his or her particular spine. I am also very happy to work alongside your physiotherapist/chiropractor or other health care practitioner as an integrated approach to managing scoliosis has been shown to be most effective.
Check out this youtube video on the SCHROTH METHOD from Scoliosis Systems:
**Otman, S., Kose, N., & Yakut, Y. (2005). The efficacy of Schroth's 3-dimensional exercise therapy in the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in Turkey. Saudi Medical Journal, 9, 1429-1435.