We’ve talked about what scoliosis is, how it feels to the patient, and how it can be diagnosed. This week we’ll talk about physical therapy’s role in treating scoliosis.
The variety of treatment options for scoliosis includes physical therapy, bracing, and surgery. Determining the best course of treatment is based on the type and severity of the scoliosis, the patient’s age, and the guidelines established by the Scoliosis Research Society.
Physical therapists can provide care during any of the phases of scoliosis treatment, including bracing or postsurgery. They will evaluate and assess the posture and movement patterns of the whole body, noting any limitations caused by changes in the spine, and address other symptoms, such as pain and muscle imbalances.
Your physical therapist will work with you and your child to develop an individualized plan tailored to the type and severity of the scoliosis as well as patient goals. Your physician will continue to closely monitor progress throughout the course of rehabilitation.
Physical therapy treatments may include:
Range-of-Motion Exercises. Your physical therapist will design a gentle range of motion treatment program to prevent limitations or to increase the body’s range of motion, if movement limitations are present.
Strength Training. Your physical therapist will design a treatment program to strengthen any muscles surrounding the spine or in other parts of the body that have been weakened by the change in the spine’s position, such as the hips, shoulders, or even the head and feet.
Manual Therapy. Physical therapists are trained to gently restore motion to joints and muscle tissue that may have become restricted due to scoliosis. They may use their hands to help guide and retrain movement patterns.
Modalities. Several additional treatments, such as ice, heat, electrical stimulation or ultrasound may aid in achieving physical therapy goals. Your physical therapist will choose the most appropriate modalities for your particular case.
Functional Training. Physical therapists are trained to be experts in assessing movement patterns, providing education on proper movement patterns, and retraining the body for optimal movement.
Education. Your physical therapist will provide information about scoliosis and the effects on the body and movement.
So is there a special kind of physical therapist available to treat scoliosis?
All physical therapists are prepared through education and clinical experience to treat a variety of conditions or injuries. You may want to consider:
- A physical therapist who is experienced in treating people with orthopedic or musculoskeletal injuries, or who is experienced in pediatrics.
- A physical therapist who is a board-certified specialist, or who has completed a residency in orthopedic or pediatric physical therapy will have advanced knowledge, experience, and skills that apply to an adolescent, particularly in the athletic population.
- A physical therapist who has received advanced training in scoliosis-specific exercises.
Physical therapists who have these and other credentials can be identified by using Find a PT, the online tool built by the American Physical Therapy Association to help you search for physical therapists with specific clinical expertise in your geographic area.
General tips when looking for a physical therapist (or any other health care provider):
- Get recommendations from family and friends or from other health care providers.
- When you contact a physical therapy clinic for an appointment, ask about the physical therapists’ experience in helping young athletes with scoliosis.
- During your first visit with the physical therapist, be prepared to describe your symptoms in as much detail as possible, report activities that make your symptoms worse, and set your goals for completing physical therapy.
In our final post next week, we’ll discuss some personal stories from scoliosis patients and their experience with physical therapy.
Content from: MoveForwardPT