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Navigating Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition characterized by a lateral or sideways curvature of the spine, creating three-dimensional trunk presentations. It can affect people of any age but is recognized in juveniles and adolescents with symptoms more frequently than adults. The most common type of scoliosis is idiopathic scoliosis meaning of unknown origin. It is believed genetics, hormones, and cellular changes may contribute. Scoliosis may also be caused by neuromuscular conditions, birth defects, previous spinal injuries, or infections.

Scoliosis is diagnosed when the lateral/sideways angle is greater than 10 degrees on an X-ray. Prior to skeletal maturity, when still growing, there is a greater risk for curvature progression. At 10-15 degrees, scoliosis-specific physical therapy is often recommended with bracing recommended around 20-25 degrees. Once skeletal maturation is reached, meaning you are done growing, the curvatures are typically stable. If a curvature is >/= 30 degrees further progression is more likely without intervention. There are cases of secondary progression well after maturity, typically in the postmenopausal period.

Symptoms associated with scoliosis can be varied. Children and juveniles are often without complaints of pain and back pain is prevalent in the adult population. While back pain is common, secondary conditions and symptoms may include headaches, reduced breathing capacity, dizziness, temporomandibular dysfunction, hip pain or limitation, altered shoulder mechanics with possible pain and ankle/foot postural changes leading to big toe and plantar foot symptoms.

Treatment for scoliosis is initially focused on minimizing curvature progression including spinal/ structural mobilization, behavioral modification to spinal / curvature loading with activities of daily living, and scoliosis-specific exercises such as Schroth exercises. If scoliosis is related to pain, treatment by a skilled physical therapist is helpful for symptom control and prevention. A foundation of treatment is education. Understanding activity and its impact on a specific curvature allows for strategies to reduce symptoms and progression as well as advancing exercises to reduce symptom frequency and intensity. Even a singular educational session can provide tools to gain control of symptoms and reach one’s goals/maximize quality of life.

If you or your child has scoliosis, schedule a consultation with i’move physical therapist Jamie Morris. With over 20 years of experience as a physical therapist, Jamie is certified in Scoliosis Management and Exercise through International Schroth 3D Scoliosis Therapy (ISST). By treating scoliosis patients on a one-on-one basis using the Schroth method, Jamie crafts a conservative, yet profoundly impactful, pathway to managing scoliosis. His dedication to personalized care ensures that each patient receives a treatment plan that is not only effective in addressing the physical aspects of scoliosis but also supportive of their overall well-being.

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