When it comes to scoliosis, many people assume the only treatment options in severe cases are getting a back brace to help correct the curvature of their spine, or have rods surgically implanted to pull their spine back into a normal positions. Both of these treatments can be extremely painful, and lead to quality of life issues in dealing with the spine being constantly forced back into a position it naturally works against. Luckily, there is a third far less invasive process to help not only treat scoliosis but alleviate the constant daily pain caused by the condition. When doctors treat scoliosis, they treat the resulting effects of the condition and not the root cause, which oftentimes is a muscular issue that shifts the spine out of its proper alignment. Through physical therapy, these muscles can be treated and reconditioned to put proper pressure on the spine to help it realign.
While there are varying types and degrees of scoliosis, it is commonly caused by an issue where the brain incorrectly responds to gravity and compensating the body’s posture. Normally, the brain responds to gravity by telling the muscles in the spine to maintain a constant level of compression, straightening the spine. In the case of someone with scoliosis, the brain incorrectly perceives the force of gravity, failing to send the proper signals to the muscles surrounding the spine to straighten the body’s posture, and the abnormal curvature begins to develop.
How Does Physical Therapy Help?
Physical therapy generally focuses on retraining and conditioning the muscles of the body to revert to a more normal range of motion or functionality through exercises targeting the affected areas to retrain muscle memory regarding balance and help strengthen and build the muscle back up towards its normal weight capacity and the joint’s range of motion. For example, for a sports injury like a torn or pulled calf muscle, exercises focusing on balance and weight-bearing on the affected limb would be used to help retrain the body on how to properly use the limb and prevent the muscle from going into atrophy through lack of use. This same concept is applied to scoliosis and the muscles of the spine. Since the muscles have an incorrect response to gravity, posture exercises and repositioning of the spine through massage and posture exercises can help retrain the body to overcompensate for the improper signals being sent to these muscles, eventually retraining the muscle memory to more properly align the spine.
How Does This Help With Pain Management
While many people believe the pain from scoliosis is due to the crooked spine, that is only part of the cause. A majority of scoliosis pain is due to improper posture caused by the condition, throwing the whole body out of alignment. Physical therapy exercises are used to slowly correct these posture issues over time, and as the body begins to adapt and the new muscle memory sets in to compensate for the condition, the realignment of the spine will help keep the body’s posture close to normal. This realignment of the body’s posture will help reduce the day-to-day pain caused by scoliosis, as the body will be more in line with its natural position.
Exercises For Scoliosis
When it comes to the exercises used in physical therapy to alleviate symptoms and help correct spine curvature, the basic exercises fall into one of several categories: -Breathing exercises which help focus on the mechanics and function of normal posture. -Mirror image exercises which help to balance out the curvature of the spine through keeping the body more symmetrical. -Incorporating anti-scoliosis postures into the activities of patient’s daily life to help correct their posture even outside of treatment sessions. -Involuntary exercises which eventually become habit and help retrain the brain and muscles to compensate and correct scoliosis issues subconsciously. Many of these involve using various weights to help the brain perceive a different center of balance, offsetting the natural perceived center of balance which caused the scoliosis in the first place.
Looking for Treatment
If you have suffered from scoliosis and don’t want to deal with invasive surgery or wearing a back brace for the rest of your life, physical therapy may be a possible solution for you. For more information, contact us for a consultation at 205-637-1363 and potential treatment options for your specific case.