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Added on August 26, 2019
by Blog Admin
Practiced internationally for nearly a century, the Schroth Method is a safe and effective treatment option for adolescent and adult scoliosis.
Most often diagnosed in adolescence, scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that continues to elude physicians and researchers as to why. About 80 percent of scoliosis cases have no identifiable cause, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS).
Scoliosis changes a person's overall spinal alignment, leading to muscle imbalances, poor posture, and sometimes pain. Symptoms are often subtle during the early stages, making them easy to overlook. The condition typically develops during growth spurts before and during puberty, but it can happen at any age. Catching scoliosis early gives patients time to correct the curve before it becomes severe.
The good news is most cases are mild, progress slowly, and do not cause major deformity – meaning observation, bracing, and physical therapy are considered before surgery. Some doctors do recommend surgery in severe cases, but there are effective nonsurgical treatments including the Schroth Method.
This multidisciplinary, nonsurgical approach incorporates specific exercises tailored to each patient's spine curvature. The goal is to return the curved spine to a more natural position using a three-dimensional approach to correct spinal and muscle imbalances. Targeted exercises help de-rotate, elongate and stabilize the spine to address the curve from all angles, as well as promote postural awareness.
Scoliosis causes the spine to move to the side and turn. Doctors detect the condition through a physical examination, an x-ray, spinal radiograph, CT scan or MRI. Patients are diagnosed when the curvature of the spine measures 10 degrees or greater on an X-ray. A curve greater than 25 to 30 degrees is considered significant, and curves exceeding 45 to 50 are considered severe.
There are two main types:
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is usually diagnosed between the ages of 10-18 years. This is the most common type and called idiopathic scoliosis because it has no definite cause. The condition is more progressive in females, and they are more likely to require treatment. Other causes are congenital and neuromuscular.
Adult scoliosis falls into three categories:
Family history: Studies have found genetics may play a role in scoliosis. About 30 percent of AIS patients, or three in 10, have some family history, according to the Scoliosis Research Society.
Other conditions that can increase the odds include a birth defect, such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy, infections, trauma during childhood, and unusually rapid growth spurts.
Abnormal posture: The earliest visible signs of scoliosis can be seen in one's posture. It is one of the symptoms, but not the cause.
Back pain: Initially, scoliosis doesn't limit movement or cause pain until the curve becomes more pronounced. Pain is more common in adults with scoliosis. The curvature in the spine starts to put pressure on the nerves and sometimes the entire spinal cord. Symptoms include lower back pain, weakness, numbness, or pain in the joints and extremities.
Fatigue: Some people feel fatigued after long periods of sitting or standing. The muscles around the spine have to work harder to keep the body aligned and balanced. In severe cases, the curvature can put pressure on the chest cavity and restrict breathing, leading to chronic fatigue.
A scoliosis diagnosis doesn't mean spinal fusion surgery is inevitable. For milder cases, or those diagnosed early, doctors recommend regular monitoring, special braces for children, and physical therapy to help correct or manage the condition. Surgery may be necessary depending on the severity or progression of scoliosis.
The Schroth Method is credited to German physiotherapist Katharina Schroth who had scoliosis herself and didn't have success with bracing. She developed her own breathing technique and exercises to manage her scoliosis and balance her muscle strength. The method was introduced in 1921 and gained popularity as a recognized treatment option. Katharina and her daughter, Christa, opened a successful clinic in Germany. Christa became a physical therapist and dedicated her career to treating scoliosis patients and training therapists in the Schroth method.
Schroth therapy can help correct muscular imbalances, improve postural awareness, and enhance quality of life. The targeted exercises and corrective breathing help develop and strengthen the inner muscles of the rib cage, change the shape of the upper trunk, and correct spinal deformities. Schroth therapy can prevent further progression of the curve in pediatric patients because their spines are still relatively flexible, but it also has benefits for adult patients.
Schroth Method exercises are individualized for each patient but include three important components:
Physical therapists help guide patients through the exercises and give them options for standing, sitting, or lying down. Props such as therapy balls, poles and Schroth bars can be incorporated to help correct scoliosis. Working one-on-one with patients, therapists also coach and train using mirrors to help patients visualize their corrections and continue practicing at home.
Ivy Rehab therapists have specialized training and certifications in orthopedic physical therapy and in specific scoliosis treatment programs including the Schroth System Scoliosis Specific Exercises, the Gyrotonic Expansion System Scoliosis program and the Stott Pilates Rehabilitation Program.
Therapy outcomes are customized to each patient based on the curve patterns and severity, as well as the patient's function and mobility, but include:
Physical therapy can be used to treat all stages of scoliosis and all ages of patients. It is beneficial as complementary care or to help rehab the spine and surrounding muscles after surgery. The best plan of care, including frequency and duration of therapy sessions, is developed based on your individual evaluation.
The most successful outcomes require buy-in from patients and a long-term commitment to follow the Schroth guidelines and exercises. Continuing a home exercise program is a lifelong commitment and necessary to maintain postural improvements.
Whether you are worried about your own spine or your child's, have received a scoliosis diagnosis, or need rehab after spinal surgery, Ivy Rehab's specially trained orthopedic physical therapists can perform a thorough evaluation and help develop a customized therapy plan. Find a clinic in your area and don't delay in seeking treatment or ignore your spinal health!