What is Scoliosis?March 3, 2015
You may have heard the term Scoliosis used before, and you may even remember being screened for Scoliosis when you were in grade school. But what exactly is Scoliosis?
Normally, your spine will be straight when viewed from the front or back. When viewed from the side, a normal spine will form an ‘S’ curve. Scoliosis alters your spinal alignment, and can cause your spine to curve from side to side like an ‘S’ or a ‘C’. Scoliosis can occur at any age, but is typically encountered in adolescents. Scoliosis is more common in females than males, and the cause for the condition is unknown. However, scoliosis can run in families. Small curves generally are not problematic, but larger curves can cause back pain and affect a person’s breathing and heart. A very severe curve can eventually cause damage to the joints of the spine.
What are Signs of Scoliosis?
As the spine starts to form abnormal curves, this can affect the surrounding muscles and joints causing pain. Your alignment and posture are also affected which alter how you move causing even more pain. The muscles that support your spine start to become shortened or lengthened, causing muscle imbalances and decreased flexibility. Some other signs of possible scoliosis include:
- Different shoulder heights
- Different hip heights
- Uneven waistline
- Difficulty breathing
- Spasms of the muscles around the spine
- Pain around the spine including the shoulder and hips
- Ribs that may stick out more on one side
How is Scoliosis Diagnosed?
Early detection of Scoliosis is important as early treatment can prevent the curve from becoming worse, allowing you to maintain your everyday activities. Usually scoliosis is detected during a physical exam or school screening. Your doctor may take an x-ray to determine the severity of the curve and suggest physical therapy to address decreased strength, flexibility, and increased pain. Other treatment options include bracing and surgery for more severe cases.
How Can Physical Therapy Help?
A physical therapist can provide treatment during any stage of scoliosis. Your therapist will first examine your spine in different positions, test your strength and flexibility, and check for areas of tenderness or swelling. A physical therapist will also look at your posture and any movements that may increase your pain. You will collaborate with your therapist to develop an individualized exercise program and any specific goals you may have.
- Stretching – Gentle stretching exercises will prevent movement limitations, increase movement in your spine, and promote normal spinal alignment.
- Strengthening – Exercises to strengthen any muscles surrounding the spine will be performed in order to promote normal alignment and increase stability. Areas that may have been weakened by the changes in your spine such as hips and shoulders will also be addressed.
- Manual Therapy – Hands on therapy will be used to decrease muscles spasms and restore normal motion to joints that may be limited due to scoliosis.
- Ice/Heat – Treatments such as Ice and Heat may be used in addition to an exercise program to decrease pain and irritation that scoliosis can cause.
Scoliosis cannot be prevented. Physical therapy can help stop the progression of scoliosis, along with other treatments. The main goal of physical therapy is to maximize your ability to perform everyday activities. Once you have reached your goal for therapy, you will be provided with a home exercise program to maintain what you have gained throughout therapy. Scoliosis requires a lifetime of treatment which does not end once your symptoms resolve. Future visits to your physical therapist may be required in order to monitor the progression of scoliosis and update your exercise program. For more information on physical therapy visit www.totalperformancept.com.