physical therapy on trapezius

How to Manage Scoliosis with Physical Therapy

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is an irregular curvature of the spine. The spine does have a normal curve both in the lower back and at the top of the shoulder, but a sideways curve, an “S” shaped, or “C” shaped curve may be a sign that you have scoliosis. Most often this occurs in young teens during a growth spurt prior to puberty, but can also be seen in adults. This condition is also more common in females as opposed to males, and can be hereditary. According to the ‘American Association of Neurological Surgeons’ (AANS), approximately 80% of patients with scoliosis have no direct cause, but it can be linked to such factors as genetic conditions, neurological abnormalities, injuries, and/or birth defects. Most cases of scoliosis are mild and can be treated with various forms of therapy. In rare cases when it is more severe, surgery may be required.

Difference between a normal spine and one with scoliosis
Difference between a normal spine and one with scoliosis

What to look for:

  • Back pain
  • Weakness or numbness in lower extremities
  • Uneven hips
  • Rotating spine
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rib hump (hump on back due to ribs sticking out)
  • A shoulder blade that sticks out or is higher than the other
  • Uneven waist
  • One arm is longer than the other


If scoliosis is suspected in an adolescent or an adult, a health professional must perform an adequate diagnosis before a treatment plan can be laid out. Usually the first step is to get a background history of the patient. The health care provider may ask questions about previous surgeries, motor function, bowel or bladder dysfunction, date of onset, presence or absence of pain, family history, and/or measured curve progression if x-rays have been taken in the past. Next, a physical exam is performed by visually screening the client standing up with arms at his/her sides, and bending forward at the hip, looking for asymmetry and curvatures in the back. Nerves may also be examined by testing your sensations, reflexes, and muscle strength. Other various tests can also be performed such as; an x-ray, MRI scan, CT scan, or a bone scan.

types of scoliosis

Scoliosis and Manual Osteopathy

Manual Osteopathy is a type of treatment that uses many different manual interventions to both prevent and treat different diseases, specifically targeting back and neck pain. It aids in keeping the joints mobile by using gentle, hands on techniques to manipulate soft tissues and bones, subsiding the pain associated with scoliosis. Manual Osteopathy will release any tension and restrictions in the spine and surrounding tissues. Examples of different techniques used are traction, mobilization, soft tissue therapy, and muscle energy techniques. Overtime, posture will also greatly improve with this modality of treatment.

Scoliosis and Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is somewhat of a new modality of treatment for scoliosis, and more patients are turning to it because of the high ability to reduce pain associated with this condition. An RMT will use a combination of stretches, positioning, constant pressure, and massage strokes to balance the muscles of the back and neck, which in turn, will temporarily reduce symptoms and pain. Our Holland Landing massage therapy treatment will help a patient with scoliosis experience better sleep, a heightened body awareness, increased circulation, enriched mental health, and enhanced mobility.

Scoliosis and Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy is a very important factor in the treatment of adult scoliosis. Your therapist will develop an exercise program that will be very beneficial in relieving pain. The key is to be consistent with the therapy program to see long-term results. A typical program might include things such as;

  • Daily stretching
  • Daily deep breathing for lung expansion
  • Maintaining high activity levels (not being sedentary)
  • Daily non-load bearing activities such as swimming
  • Learning correct bodily mechanics for correct posture

Another option is to use an orthotic brace to prevent further progression of a curved spine. A brace will not completely correct a curve in the spine, but it will prevent it from getting worse. Bracing is mainly done with children who are still growing. Other exercises and stretches must be performed in addition to wearing a brace to see the most beneficial results.

Long Term Management

When treating scoliosis, one treatment method is generally not enough. The most effective treatment programs that show the best result, are ones with a multi-faceted approach. With the correct combination of treatments that are consistent, you will see substantial long-term results. To make an appointment with the practitioners at Ultimate Health Clinic, please give us a call at (905) 251-0162.

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