If you’re interested in scoliosis physiotherapy and exercises as part of your treatment, it can be hard to find detailed information. Don’t worry, it’s for a good reason! Each case of scoliosis is different, and using highly customized movements is important if you want to see positive outcomes.
Any “one-size-fits-all” types of scoliosis exercises that you find on the Internet are going to be much less effective than an exercise program made just for you by a specialist who understands your unique spine. So how do you figure out what’s best for you? Here’s a quick look at how scoliosis physiotherapy has evolved and why chiropractors play an important role.
Treating scoliosis with physiotherapy, also known as physical therapy in the U.S., became popular in Europe throughout the 20th century. Doctors were looking for new ways to treat patients that didn’t involve lengthy hospital stays and could help offset the muscle weaknesses caused by bracing. Several different approaches developed during this period, including the popular series of scoliosis exercises known as the Schroth method.
Today, the primary goal of scoliosis-specific exercise is to work muscles on each side of the spine, essentially training the body to do the opposite of its current default posture. Scoliosis causes muscles on the inside of a spinal curve to become increasingly weak and overstretched and simultaneously shortens muscles on the outside of the curve, which become tight and painful. An exercise like a side bend can help loosen the short muscles that are pulling the spine away from the center of the back while also strengthen the muscles that are too weak to help pull the spine from the other side of the curve. It’s all about balance!
Physical therapy methods like Schroth have been proven to help scoliosis patients by working on posture, but there’s more going on than meets the eye. In order to dive deep into each case of scoliosis, we have to start at the root of the problem: the spine.
While physical therapists can learn some things from looking at posture, they are not allowed to take X-rays. The X-ray training they receive is typically medically-oriented, focusing upon looking for fractures and signs of disease rather than understanding the biomechanics of the joints and the spine. Chiropractors, by comparison, have been trained as spinal specialists and often use X-rays to understand more about each of their patients’ spines.
With this in-depth knowledge, scoliosis-specific adjustments can be provided based upon the specific misalignments measured on the X-rays. And post X-rays taken after treatment can confirm the change in the position of the spine. In this way, scoliosis chiropractors have been able to continually refine their adjustments, therapies, and exercises over the years to maximize their benefit.
Chiropractors are also trained in providing adjustments to the spine to restore motion in areas that are locked-up or stuck. Without a chiropractic adjustment to first ensure the spine is flexible and moving naturally, the benefit of physical therapy isn’t as great as it could be. After all, if the spine isn’t mobile, how can exercise and strong muscles help move it in place?
Because of this close relationship with spinal mobility and muscle strength, we think exercises are most effective when they are prescribed as one part of a comprehensive and highly customized treatment plan. And our CLEAR-certified doctors are trained to do just that.
But it’s not all about muscles and joints. Scoliosis experts recognize that successfully treating scoliosis without surgery needs to train the brain, too. There is increasing interest in the idea that scoliosis stems from miscommunication between the brain and body, which results in people having balance issues when they close their eyes or when walking on uneven surfaces.
Basically, in order to keep our balance and maintain good posture, the brain and the spinal muscles have to coordinate information from the environment and respond appropriately. The body relies most upon the eyes to do this. When the eyes are closed, the brain and the body have to work more closely together, and any problems are easier to see. Many problems with proprioception (balancing with the eyes closed) have been documented to occur in people with scoliosis, and people who have lost their sight are fourteen times more likely to have scoliosis.
The CLEAR approach includes exercises designed to better connect the mind with muscle movements that control posture. Patients undergo whole-body vibration therapy and weighted balance training to help make corrective movements more unconscious and automatic. You can control your posture for a while by focusing on it, but as soon as you stop concentrating on it, the body falls back into its old routines.
To truly change posture requires reprogramming the body’s unconscious, involuntary patterns of behavior. So while active exercises work to rehabilitate muscle imbalances, this part of treatment focuses on imbalances in the brain’s control centers by using reactive movements. This way, the brain doesn’t fall back into old muscle patterns.
Scoliosis physiotherapy exercises are one piece of the puzzle. By both strengthening and loosening imbalanced muscles with exercises, patients can make cosmetic improvements that also reduce discomfort and pain.
We also believe that it’s equally important to train your brain and mobilize your joints with chiropractic adjustments so that strong muscles can do their job. If an all-inclusive approach sounds good to you, you might be interested in a typical CLEAR treatment session, where we combine brain-triggering exercises and spinal mobility movements with adjustments.
Have you tried scoliosis physiotherapy as part of your treatment? How was your experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.