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New Therapy Shows Scoliosis Improvement Without Surgery

Health Hub
Author name: Lee Health

Scoliosis Graphic

Every year, nearly 38,000 people with scoliosis have spinal fusion surgery to stop its progression and relieve symptoms. But a new nonsurgical treatment program may help reduce the risk of spinal fusion surgery in some patients.

Catherine McManus, a physical therapist with Lee Health’s new scoliosis program, says the Schroth Method teaches patients exercises to improve their posture and muscle imbalance to prevent further spinal curve progression.

“The Schroth Method is an exercise therapy that can help correct muscular imbalances and improve postural awareness,” McManus explains. “We’re trying to improve the patient's posture because if they are going to get a progression of their scoliosis, they are going to get an abnormal posture, and they're going to get a muscle imbalance.”

McManus cautions that the Schroth Method doesn’t guarantee a patient can avoid surgery to lessen the curve in their spines, but as a component of conservative treatment, it can help improve outcomes and a patient’s quality of life.

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a spinal deformity that typically begins in childhood in otherwise healthy people. It may progress during adolescent growth periods and in adulthood due to normal aging degeneration of the spine.

In most people, the cause of scoliosis is unknown, according to Dr. Arun Hariharan, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Health. About 80 percent of scoliosis cases have no identifiable cause, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS).

“For most children and teens, the cause of scoliosis is idiopathic (unknown),” Dr. Hariharan says. “In some congenital (in the womb), neuromuscular, or traumatic cases, we know that it’s caused by certain muscle imbalances or genetic problems within that condition.”

Scoliosis affects 2 percent to 3 percent of the population or an estimated six to nine million people in the United States. While some people with scoliosis may just need their condition monitored, others may need treatment like a brace or surgery.

“The cases of severe curve are when we really need to talk about surgery, Dr. Hariharan says. “When it gets past a certain number of degrees, and we measure those degrees off an X-ray, patients start to experience trouble with their heart and lungs and overall function as far as standing.”

(Learn more about scoliosis treatment for your child in this video)

How the Schroth Method can be a nonsurgical option

The Schroth Method treats all stages of scoliosis in patients of every age. Developed as a customized plan of care based on each patient’s individual evaluation, the therapy aims to return the curved spine to a more natural position using a three-dimensional approach to correct spinal and muscle imbalances.

“The specifically targeted exercises help de-rotate, elongate, and stabilize the spine to address the scoliosis curve from all angles, as well as promote postural awareness,” she says. “Patients learn about the nature of their unique curve, so they know how to move in ways that benefit their spine.”

During therapy, Schroth-certified therapists like McManus use mirrors, which help patients increase postural awareness and provide visual instruction on positions that benefit the spine. (Curious to see how the Schroth Method is administered?)

Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida/Lee Health Outpatient Rehabilitation offers the Schroth Method physical therapy by BSPTS Schroth-Certified Therapists at several of our locations.

Our specially trained therapists have an in-depth understanding of evaluating and treating all specific patient curve patterns that are unique to each individual.  Call 239-343-4970 to learn more or to schedule an evaluation.