The Schroth Method is a specialized treatment program used by certified physical therapists to help people with scoliosis. The Schroth Method was originally developed to treat idiopathic scoliosis, but it is appropriate for anyone who has scoliosis, including all ages and all levels of severity.
What is Scoliosis?
We all have curves in our spines, but scoliosis causes the spine to curve in the wrong direction. It causes sideways curves, and those are different from the spine’s normal curves. The angle of the curve may be small, large or somewhere in between. If you looked at your spine from the side, you’d see it curves out at your neck (cervical spine), in at your mid-back (thoracic spine), and out again at your low back (lumbar spine). Your back is supposed to curve that way.
However, if you looked at your spine from behind, you shouldn’t see any curves. When there are sideways curves in the spine from the rear view, that’s scoliosis. The curves can look like an “S” or a “C.” It often appears in children. In most cases, treatment is not needed, as the curve corrects itself with growth. However, based on the degree of curvature and the age of the child, a combination of bracing and physical therapy is often recommended.
Signs and symptoms of scoliosis may include:
- Uneven shoulders
- One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other
- Uneven waist
- One hip higher than the other or one hip is more prominent than the other
- The individual may lean to one side
- The ribcage is not symmetrical – the ribs may be at different heights
- The head is slightly off center
- The individual may lean to one side
If a scoliosis curve gets worse, the spine will also rotate or twist, in addition to curving side to side. This causes the ribs on one side of the body to stick out farther than on the other side.
Schroth Method for Scoliosis Treatment
The Schroth Method is a physical therapy approach to scoliosis treatment. It is based on exercises tailored to each patient’s spine curvature. It uses exercises customized for each patient to return the curved spine to a more natural position. The goal of Schroth exercises is to de-rotate, elongate and stabilize the spine in a three-dimensional plane. This is achieved through physical therapy that focuses on:
- Restoring muscular symmetry and alignment of posture
- Breathing into the concave side of the body
- Teaching you to be aware of your posture
This approach to scoliosis treatment was developed by Katharina Schroth and further popularized by her daughter Christa. Born in Germany in late 1800s, Katharina Schroth had scoliosis that was unsuccessfully treated with bracing. She developed her own breathing technique and exercises to manage her scoliosis. She and her daughter opened a clinic, where they treated more than 150 patients at a time.
What results can be expected after completing a Schroth program?
Most patients see visible improvement in the degree of their spine curvature after completing a Schroth program. The length of the program may vary, but typically includes between five and 20 sessions. Traditionally, the sessions were several hours long and were set in a tight daily schedule. Today, Schorth programs are usually less intense and include shorter sessions spread over a longer period. At HealthQuest Physical Therapy, our sessions typically last from 45 minutes to an hour. The length and frequency largely depend on the patient’s tolerance and the extent of the scoliosis.
Besides the correction of the curve, outcomes of a Schroth program may include:
- Improved posture
- Improved core stability and strength
- Easier breathing
- Less pain
- Improved overall movement pattern and function
- Improved self-management and understanding of the spine
- Better pelvis alignment
The main goal of Schroth exercises is to prevent scoliosis from advancing. Depending on your age, bone maturity and the degree of curvature, bracing may also be a part of the treatment. Schroth-specific breathing complements the bracing as children are taught to breathe within their custom brace. Managing scoliosis with the Schroth Method and bracing may be an option for patients who want to avoid surgery. However, a long-term commitment to the Schroth guidelines is necessary to make this treatment successful.
Have scoliosis and want to know if we can help? Schedule a free assessment today!