Scoliosis pain – can physiotherapy help?

Scoliosis pain is a condition characterised by abnormal lateral or side-ways curvature of the spine. It not only leads to a cosmetic issue for some, but can also cause pain, and the loss of strength and flexibility of the spine can negatively impact physical function. If left untreated, the scoliosis will continue progressing.

So does physiotherapy help scoliosis? The answer is yes, physiotherapy can help manage scoliosis. However, whether physiotherapy can reduce the degree of scoliosis will depend on the type of scoliosis.

Structural vs postural scoliosis: what is the difference?

Structural Scoliosis

  • It is more common
  • In addition to side-ways curvature, it can also present with spine rotation, resulting in ribs being more prominent from the back on one side
  • Can be further classified based on its cause: idiopathic scoliosis, neuromuscular scoliosis and congenital scoliosis
  • Typically involves a permanent structural change of the spine
  • The curvature is unfortunately not commonly reversible with physiotherapy
  • Physiotherapy would be focused on minimising the rate of scoliosis progression and management of the condition in the long term

Postural Scoliosis

  • It is less common
  • Normally occurs due to chronic poor posture or a physical irregularity of the body (e.g. leg length discrepancy)
  • There is no spine rotation present, and often the action of bending forwards or lying flat will allow the scoliosis to temporarily disappear
  • Typically reversible by addressing the cause, which in most cases is poor posture
  • Physiotherapy can also work towards maintaining strength and movement of the spine and returning to normal function

Help scoliosis with physio

Regardless of whether the scoliosis is reversible or not, physiotherapy can still provide many benefits!

1. Pain and symptom management

We can assist you by providing pain management advice and ways to modify your activities to avoid exacerbation of symptoms. If indicated, we can also perform manual therapy to alleviate symptoms.

2. Stability and strengthening exercises

Maximising the stability and strength of your muscles, particularly around your spine, will allow them to support your back more effectively and optimise your function, particularly in the long-term. We can help step you through a structured exercise program to achieve this.

3. Spine mobility

Maintaining good range and movement at all levels of the spine is important for your ability to perform tasks and activities effectively and without pain. Therefore, we can help prescribe stretches and movement exercises to increase your spine mobility and, if indicated, perform manual therapy to loosen up your joints.

4. Postural correction

We can observe and provide feedback on your sitting and standing posture to assist in reversing the degree of scoliosis (in the case of postural scoliosis) and maintaining good range in other segments of the spine.

5. Respiratory management

In severe cases (typically >50° magnitude) when the respiratory system is compromised, we can also provide assistance in breathing and mucus production to help maintain your lung function.

6. Bracing

Whilst there is some research to suggest bracing of the trunk can reduce the progression of scoliosis, this is normally prescribed by your doctor for paediatric cases when the bones are still growing.

As you can see, physiotherapy helps you in many ways. So if you’re someone with scoliosis and you’re not quite sure how to best manage it, consider booking an appointment with one of our physiotherapists today!

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