Scoliosis is a condition in which a person’s spine is curved from side to side and appears as an “S” or a “C” shape on an x-ray film when viewed from front or back. The condition may be idiopathic (meaning the cause is unknown) or it may be congenital (the result of vertebral malalignment at birth). It may also develop as a result of a neurological disorder such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida. Scoliosis occurs and worsens most commonly in adolescents. It affects more girls than boys. There is no known cure for this condition and it may become quite a painful one.

The goal of physiotherapy in treating patients with scoliosis is to address back pain, posture and muscle strength and length. Physiotherapists may use several treatment techniques such as soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, muscle stretching, acupuncture, trigger point therapy, heat and electrical stimulation to help alleviate pain associated with scoliosis.

Exercises to improve the muscle imbalance caused by scoliosis include strengthening and stretching specific muscle groups. Hydrotherapy (aquatic exercises) is especially helpful as the therapeutic heat of the water helps relieve pain while the buoyancy of the water helps patients exercise effectively with much less strain placed on the muscles and joints.

In idiopathic adolescent scoliosis, therapy may sometimes also involve bracing to prevent progression. A custom-fitted brace may be appropriate, which fits from the armpits to the hips. The child or parent is taught to put on and take off the brace and is given a wearing schedule, usually 22-23 hours a day.

For the child whose scoliosis is the result of a neurological disorder, physiotherapy may include training in posture, co-ordination and gait as well as exercises to promote flexibility and strength. The child may also be fitted with a brace and will be trained in its wearing procedure.

Scoliosis presents many challenges with the pain, reduced flexibility and incorrect posture it may sometimes cause, however with proper diagnosis and treatment by a physiotherapist we can help you take on those challenges and we will help you live with less pain and dysfunction.

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