Scoliosis: How Do You Know if You Are Improving?

May 07, 2020 - by admin - in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis

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By Rosemary Marchese (Physiotherapist, Scoliosis Schroth and SEAS methods)

How do you know if you or your child with scoliosis is improving? There is often a lot of focus on the Cobb angle (the measurement on X-ray). It’s easy to see why. An angle provides a number, something ‘concrete’ for patients and families to hold on to provide feedback on progress. However the Cobb angle provides a 2D measurement. Scoliosis is a 3D problem. So, while the Cobb angle is one source of measurement, there are other things to look for to check in on progress. 

Postural balance improves 

Scoliosis can create structural and functional changes in the body. Muscle tensions become unbalanced. Some muscles are weaker than others, while others are more tense. Parts of the body can start to appear more collapsed than others and the patient starts to struggle with maintaining alignment and strong posture. Physiotherapists trained in the area of scoliosis an assess this postural balance using scoring systems. I like to also provide photographic feedback to my patients so that they can get a visual perspective of their posture. After all they cannot see their backs! Postural balance can improve even if the Cobb angle stays the same! Many people live a very normal and healthy life with scoliosis curves that that have a stable Cobb angle because they work hard at their posture. <scoliosis_improving>

Strength improves

Strength can be altered by scoliosis. You can use strength as an another measure to determine if your scoliosis situation is improving. Strength reduction can occur because of imbalances that occur with scoliosis. Pain may also be present. This can lead to exercise avoidance Physiotherapeutic scoliosis specific exercises (PSSE), as suggested by SOSORT*, can provide specific ways to strengthen posture in these situations. Schroth and SEAS (Scientific Exercise Approach to Scoliosis) are part of the PSSE world for conservative treatment options for scoliosis. 

Pain reduces 

Pain is not as prevalent in younger cases of scoliosis. Pain is much more common in adults with scoliosis. Reduction of pain is another way to determine if you are improving with your attempts to manage your scoliosis. 

Balance and coordination improves

Scoliosis can affect the way your body perceives ‘upright’ and may affect balance and coordination. It is one of the major reasons we use mirrors a lot in our clinic. Mirrors provide the feedback the brain needs as we adjust the posture. Initially you will feel awkward as your posture improves. You have scoliosis and your brain works to stop you from falling. The mirror provides feedback to the brain to show you that your posture is actually improving. 

*SOSORT – The International Society of Scoliosis Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Treatment

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