It's time to go back to school, and it's a perfect time to learn about Scoliosis. Raising awareness and educating the public about scoliosis signs and symptoms, early detection, and the various correction methods can make a major difference in the life of someone who has scoliosis. Did you know roughly 2-3% of the population in America has some degree of scoliosis? That’s 6-9 million people in the US alone. Some cases are so mild that they may never need treatment, while others require extensive treatment, including physical therapy, bracing, or even surgery. The earlier scoliosis is detected, the more treatable it may be. That’s why it’s essential to spread awareness and education around scoliosis.
The Schroth Method for scoliosis is a physical therapy approach aimed to help correct and prevent the progression of the spinal curve through a series of 3D postural corrections aimed to strengthen the trunk using specific breathing techniques to reshape the spine and trunk. Scoliosis treatment exercises utilized in the Schroth Method can help patients reduce pain and strengthen underused muscles to correct posture. It’s also been proven to help prevent the curve of the spine from worsening, and it may even correct curvature.
Exercises for scoliosis in adults may vary depending on the cause and the degree of scoliosis. Adults with idiopathic scoliosis are less likely to see the spinal curve worsen than children, but may still find Schroth exercises helpful in reducing pain and improving posture. Adults facing degenerative scoliosis caused by aging and degeneration of the spine may need slightly different treatment, but can still benefit greatly from gentle stretching and strengthening exercises in a corrected postural position.
Using Schroth techniques to treat scoliosis requires commitment and daily practice to rebalance the musculature around the spine. A certified Schroth Method physical therapist will guide you through targeted exercises aimed to help correct your specific spinal curve and muscular asymmetry. However, here are a few general scoliosis correction exercises you can practice at home to help the process along before and during physical therapy treatment! Make sure to check with your specialist first to determine which exercises are best for you.
Rotational Angular Breathing
Breathing exercises are essential in the Schroth method and can be performed in many positions. Rotational angular breathing (RAB) is a practice of rotational movement accompanied by deep breathing to help reshape the ribcage and surrounding musculature. To execute this at home, begin in a seated position with feet firmly planted on the floor. Inhale deeply into the compressed side of your rib cage for a count of three seconds (minimum). When exhaling, contract the opposing muscles to improve strength and stability for a count of five.
Practicing breathing into the concave side of the ribcage while stretching and strengthening the torso can help reduce asymmetry in the spine and ribcage from the inside out. RAB can be practiced from a recumbent lateral position with a pillow under the convex side of the ribcage (to expand the concave side), or while executing some of the exercises listed below. Additionally, a Schroth method physical therapist may have you practice this style of breathing while engaging in gentle twisting and bending of the spine that targets your specific spinal curve.
Pelvic tilt exercise can help strengthen the core and release tension in the lower back. Begin lying on the floor on your back with knees bent and soles of the feet planted on the floor. Press the small of the back into the floor by engaging the stomach and buttock muscles. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then release.
Seated in the cross-legged position, only with both the legs on the floor and ankles not interlocking, bend the torso forward enough to place the palms on the floor in front of the legs. This is a beginner’s pose that helps prepare the body for hip-opening pose.
Bird dogs provide excellent core stabilization and cross-lateral symmetry to help improve posture. Start on hands and knees with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Keep a tight core and a neutral spine while you extend your right arm straight in front of you by your ear and your left leg straight out behind you in line with your hip. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and then return to hands and knees and repeat on the other side.
Start supine with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Raise one knee at a 90-degree angle and then the other so that both legs are in the air with knees stacked over hips and low back pressed into the floor. Place your hands on your knees and engage the abdominal muscles as you push your knees into your hands and hands into your knees. Keep the arms straight and hold tension in this position for three deep breaths. Release and repeat five times.
Planks are another excellent core stabilizing exercise and can be practiced with a few different variations:
- Knees and elbows: Laying on the belly, place elbows under shoulders and push through the forearms to lift the torso off the floor. Elbows should be at a 90-degree angle with forearms straight in front of you and knees remaining on the floor. Hold for as long as you are able.
- Hands and knees: Begin on hands and knees with hands directly under shoulders. Knees should be behind the hips and the torso should form a straight line from the knees to the shoulders. Keep the core tight and hold for as long as you are able or directed to.
- Feet and elbows: Starting on elbows and knees, walk the feet out behind you with your toes flexed beneath you until your body is in a straight line from shoulders to toes. Keep the core tight and breath into the ribcage as you hold this position.
- Hands and feet: Begin on hands and knees and walk your feet out behind you, as above, with toes flexed. Your body should form a straight line from toes to shoulders, keeping a tight core to prevent the torso from arching or the hips from raising up.
Suitcase deadlifts help strengthen the core and lower back while also working the obliques to prevent the spine from rotating during the exercise. This exercise does require a kettlebell that you can lift fairly easily. If you don’t have a kettlebell at home, you can try substituting with a bag of rice or a large water bottle. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width distance apart and your trunk elongated ( pretend there is a string being pulled from the top of your head to elongate your spine). Place the kettlebell on the outside of one foot. Hinge forward at the hips and gently bend the knees to reach the kettlebell. Squeezing the glutes, push the hips forward to stand back up. Keep your spine neutral throughout the lift. Your knees should stay behind your toes, and your hips should remain above your knees for this motion. Repeat 3-5 times on each side.
Lie on your back. Lift your right leg to your chest and place a yoga strap across the arch of that foot. Then straighten the leg, pointing the heel toward the ceiling. Lower the right leg and repeat the exercise with the left.
Schroth Method Physical Therapy for Scoliosis
As stated above, the specific exercises best suited to you will depend on the particulars of your spinal curve. The exercises above may be an excellent supplement to your daily scoliosis care routine, helping to reduce pain and improve strength and mobility, however, these exercises alone will not correct scoliosis. Be sure to consult your doctor or physical therapist before trying these exercises at home.
A Schroth method physical therapist can assess your particular scoliosis curve and create a treatment plan specifically targeted to your body. Schroth treatment may include rotational angular breathing, postural exercises, stretching, and strengthening exercises using various props such as exercise balls, poles, bands, wall ladders and more. At Advanced Care Physical Therapy, we are certified in the Barcelona Scoliosis Physical Therapy School for Schroth treatment and the SEAS approach. Our team is passionate about early treatment and education so that our patients can manage their scoliosis without surgery. If you live in the Western New York area, we would love for you to see one of our expert physical therapists. Contact us to set up an appointment today!