Scoliosis is a sideways S or C shaped bend in the spine that can lead to pain, imbalances in muscles, limitations in movement, poor posture and breathing difficulties. In most cases it comes about from unknown causes and can either be functional or structural.
Structural means that the spine and ribs are bent and rotated into abnormal positions and fixed regardless of your position.
Functional scoliosis does not have the rotation of the spine and ribs and will disappear when bending forward, this can be corrected with treatment of tight muscles or leg length differences.
The bends and rotations in the spine can be visualized using blocks as below:
The 3 main options given to those with scoliosis are (or a combination of the below):
Exercise and physiotherapy
Physiotherapy is the most widely used exercise based, non-surgical approach for management of scoliosis. Following an assessments conducted by a physiotherapist, the exercises will be individually tailored by the curve patterns and severity, as well as the patient’s age and level of function and fitness. They are designed to create awareness of posture and alignment through proper positioning and repetition. The patient is taught certain positions that will allow expansion of the flattened chest and back areas. Along with prominence of their ribs, many scoliosis patients have flattening of their backs, lumbar spine or pelvis as a result of the curvature. The exercises that improve the flat back, restore the alignment of the pelvis and reduce the protruded areas of the trunk are simple and highly effective in improving function.
The result of physiotherapy treatment and exercises is a decrease in pain, slowing or halting of the curvature progression, and improved cardio-pulmonary function, mobility, and postural stability. Some exercises include:
- Hip hitch exercise
- Pelvic shifting exercise
- Hip stabilization exercise- more on conscious awareness of hip position and consciously correcting it before movements exercises
Any exercises involving bending backwards, twisting of ribs, bending sideways or bending the rib cage should be avoided as they put more pressure on the ribs and spine which can cause pain and worsening of the condition. There are some exercises in Yoga that need to be avoided in yoga (these are not the only exercises but give an idea)
Spinal twist in sitting
Side bending of spine