An Exercise-Based Option for Scoliosis Management


Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) publishes new recommendations for scoliosis screenings


View our scoliosis program >>

Read our in-depth informational booklet with details for adolescents, adults and out-of-town patients.  Access this booklet (PDF) >>

Physical Therapists:

Learn more about Schroth-based continuing
education in Milwaukee >>

Traditionally physical therapy has played a minor role in management of scoliosis in the United States.  Patients are often given the "wait and see" approach when diagnosed, and given few options for intervention. This is rapidly changing, as patients and families want to take a more proactive approach in preventing curves from progressing. Our scoliosis program offers the resources needed to comprehensively manage scoliosis in adults and children.    

In 2005, Spinal Dynamics of Wisconsin became one of the first clinics to be offer scoliosis-specific physical therapy when we became certified in one of the leading European therapy approaches: the Schroth method. Today, our conservative scoliosis management program continues to grow. In addition to Schroth, we also offer
   - on-site bracing (including 3-D Cheneau bracing following Rigo principles as well as other bracing options)
   - radiation-free spinal scans for monitoring of scoliosis (DIERS formetric)
   - SEAS method (Scientific Exercise Approach to Scoliosis - a functional exercise program founded in Italy)
   - physician resources
   - group exercise class
   - "Immersion" programs for out of town patients to learn Schroth during one intensive week at our clinic. 

In 2012, we began teaching Schroth method to other physical therapists through our affiliation with Barcelona Scoliosis Physical Therapy School (BSTPS). 

A proactive approach: We are committed to helping patients live optimally with scoliosis

Physical therapy is based on the principle that scoliosis has a postural component that can be improved by altering the forces that act on the spine. Patients are motivated to become more active in their own health. Curve-specific exercises are taught and repetitively practiced in multiple positions to challenge the body’s strengths and weakness. When exercises and posture are practiced consistently, spinal forces are changed and the body can achieve a more optimal position.  When a brace is indicated, research shows better results when bracing is combined with therapy rather than bracing being used alone.

 Read af four-year case history of a Spinal Dynamics patient who reduced her curve wtih Schroth and bracing (PDF) >> 

Conservative therapy for scoliosis is directed at interrupting the "vicious cycle" that acts upon the spine. 

There is no known primary cause for scoliosis, but once present, abnormal spine curvatures can lead to a vicious cycle: Following an unknown trigger, spinal curvature creates asymmetric loading which may then drive the development of progressive spinal deformity.  Specific exercises use muscle and joint forces to change the asymmetric loading and minimize the progression of the scoliosis curvature.  In some cases, reduction of curvature may also be seen. 

Although individual patients have unique treatment goals, some common goals and benefits of conservative management with Schroth therapy include:

  • improved understanding and acceptance of scoliosis
  • prevention of curve progression
  • improved posture
  • reduced pain
  • increased strength and flexibility
  • improved body mechanics
  • improved breathing
  • improved endurance and tolerance to activities
  • enhanced cosmetic appearance
  • prevention (or delay) of surgery
  • empowerment and enhanced psychological outlook
  • improved bracing compliance/results
  • connection to others with scoliosis 

What to expect . . .

Patients and families will be treated with compassion and respect.  We encourage you to come in for a consultation, even if you are not sure the program is right for you.  We will spend time getting to know you and help you understand your options. Whether your scoliosis is a newly diagnosed condition or one that you have known about a long time, therapy can benefit you.  We sincerely look forward to being a resource of education and motivation for you.

Initially you can expect:

  • therapist and patient/family introduction
  • past medical history review
  • musculoskeletal evaluation
  • x-ray evaluation for classifying and understanding spinal curvature
  • posture photos and DIERS radiation-free torso scan for body shape assessment
  • explanation of evaluation findings
  • discussion of patient goals and individual treatment options

Individual programs may then include:

  • orientation to "what is scoliosis" and rationale for exercise 
  • education about "dos and donts" of every day life - school, sports, work, etc.
  • exercises to encourage 3-D movement control and posture correction
  • hands-on care for massage and joint mobilization
  • incrementally challenging exercises to build endurance and counteract the curve
  • training in breathing mechanics to help the spine and improve vital capacity
  • mentoring and coaching
  • option of scoliosis group exercise to help you know you're not alone
  • bracing consultation and fitting as recommended
  • adjunctive physical therapy as needed

Team approach

Our therapists are excellent at working with your other health care practitioners to coordinate your overall care.  If your current physician does not know about scoliosis-specific physical therapy, we are happy to provide information about our services. We can help you find a physician if you need one. We have an in-house orthotist and massage therapist. We are available to meet with professionals and offer in-services and demonstrations in an effort to increase the medical community’s awareness of conservative scoliosis management.

For more information . . .

  • Read comments from some of our patients  More>>
  • Read our in-depth informational about Schroth physical therapy  More>>
  • Visit our Patient Library for links to scoliosis and bracing articles  More>>
  • Visit our Patient Library for links to scoliosis related websites  More>>

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