Bonavista Physical Therapy Calgary Physiotherapy Treatment for Scoliosis

Book An Appointment Woman with Idiopathic Scoliosis stretching in the outdoors

What is Scoliosis?

A 3-dimensional deformity of spine is called scoliosis. The vertebral column is deviated in all 3 planes of motion. This means the vertebrae in the spinal column are flexed in the sagittal plane, side bent in the frontal plane and rotated in the transverse plane. Normally, the spine is straight when viewed from the back but scoliosis results in an abnormal “C” shape (single curve scoliosis) or “S” shape (double curve scoliosis) orientation of spine.  Scoliosis could be as mild as a minimally deviated curve with no pain (just deviation of spine from the normal curve) and could be as severe as a major double scoliotic curve (where the spine is both bent and twisted).  The more severe cases can present with pain and severe musculoskeletal deformities, not only in the spine but also in other joints that are connected to the spine. Sometimes scoliosis can affect lung and heart function due to compression on these organs because the bony rib cage becomes deformed as it is attached to the spine.

Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis

Man showing symptoms of idiopathic Scoliosis having a physiotherapy assessment while bending his back
Rib Cage
Appear different lengths
One is more prominent
Lung and Heart
Function can be compromised due to compression

Onset and Progression of Scoliosis

3 images showing a normal spine and a scoliotic spine from the side and the back

AIS (Adult Idiopathic scoliosis) is the most common form of scoliosis that often starts at about 10 years of age or above. As the name suggests, it is idiopathic, meaning its cause is unknown.  About 3% of adolescents have scoliosis. It is hard to predict if scoliosis will progress at a steady rate, quickly, or not progress at all. We have seen cases of  severe scoliosis curves at young ages (early 20s) and we have seen patients with stable scoliotic curves even at the age of 40 and above.

How do I  know if it is progressing?
The Cobb angle is a scientific measure of the severity of scoliosis and it can be determined with the help of an X ray. When the X-rays are repeated periodically and the Cobb angle is measured (tracked over successive X-rays), it can help in determining whether the scoliotic curvature is progressing or not.

Non Structural Scoliosis
In these cases the spine works normally but just looks curved – this can happen with muscle spasms, leg length discrepancies, inflammatory issues or postural habit.

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Treatment for Scoliosis

A physiotherapy therapist treating a fit man with scoliosis
  • Assessment to determine if scoliosis is idiopathic or non-structural
  • Education regarding diagnosis and management
  • Provide scoliosis specific exercises
  • Prevent further progression of deformity and pain
  • Exercises to improve muscle length and strength imbalances
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