What is Scoliosis Specific Exercise?

By guest blogger Jean Masse PT, DPT, PRC, OCS, ATC

Scoliosis can have many forms. We have general categories for scoliosis and spine curvatures, but each is unique. Scoliosis Specific Exercise are designed to balance scoliosis curves.  They address the unique curvatures of each person.

Asymmetry is something all scoliosis curves have in common. Asymmetries occur in 3 dimensions: 1) Front to back, 2) Side to side, 3) Rotation. With both the Schroth Method and Postural Restoration, we address all 3 aspects of the curvature to balance asymmetry. Our patients begin Scoliosis Specific Exercise with front to back correction, then side to side. Rotation will then follow.

In the front to back, curves are known as either lordosis (most commonly increased arching in the low back), or kyphosis (increased rounding in the back, most often the upper back).  In the side to side dimension curves are often a C-shape or an S-shape. The C-shape is considered a “3-curve” using Schroth terminology. The S-shape is considered a “4-curve” in Schroth terminology. Rotational curves can be seen when a person bends forward, and one side of the back is more prominent. Also, in the front of their body one side of the rib cage is often more protruded than the other.

Precise exercise positions place the body so that a person’s muscles, previously underused, are activated. Muscles targeted are different on the right and on the left depending on the person’s curve pattern. Wedges, towel rolls, bolsters, stools, poles, bars, bands, balls, are a few tools we use. These help us for positioning our patient, to give sensory input to our patient, and to guide the patient’s muscle activity. Once in the corrected position, specific breathing techniques are used to expand restricted, concave areas. Breathing alone is a powerful tool for repositioning the spine and rib cage.

Postural Restoration based spinal correction activity
Schroth based spinal correction activity

Scoliosis exercises are progressed as a person gains mastery of each position and breathing technique. The Schroth Method outlines basic Principles of Correction that include mental focus on changing the body’s habits.

Scoliosis Specific Exercises are challenging. They are also empowering and offer a deep and enduring awareness of our body position, breathing and postural balance.

About Jean Massé

Jean Masse PT, DPT, PRC, OCS, ATC received her BS degree in Physical Therapy in 1991 from SUNY Stony Brook and in 1996, her MS degree in Human Movement Science from UNC Chapel Hill. Also in 1996, she completed the Sports Medicine Program at UNC Chapel Hill becoming a licensed athletic trainer. Jean has worked extensively with athletes ranging from NCAA elite to senior Olympians to Little Leaguers.

Jean became a nationally recognized Orthopaedic Certified Specialist through the American Physical Therapy Association in 1999. She re-certified in 2009.

Still interested to understand why some patients do not seem to heal, Jean returned to UNC Chapel Hill where she earned a doctoral degree in Physical Therapy with the focus on pain management and began teaching at UNC Chapel Hill as adjunct faculty in the Physical Therapy Department soon after, in addition to her work with patients at Advance Physical Therapy.

Advance Physical Therapy is a physical therapist owned practice offering quality rehabilitation to clients in Chapel Hill, Durham, Carrboro, Pittsboro, Cary and surrounding areas of the Triangle in North Carolina.

Advance Physical Therapy is offering a 2 day course for PT’s on scoliosis management at our Chapel Hill, NC clinic May 18-19, 2019. 
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