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Managing Scoliosis in Adolescents

How do I spot if my child has Scoliosis?

Image taken from: gilettechildren’s

Does your child have uneven shoulders, with one appearing higher than the other? One hip being more prominent on one side than the other? Or a visibly curved spine that appears like an “S” when looked from the back?

These are some symptoms of Scoliosis, a medical condition describing a pronounced sideways curvature of the spine coupled with rotation, most often diagnosed in adolescents aged between 9 and 13 years old who are undergoing growth spurt, with more cases found in girls than in boys. In 8 out of 10 detected cases, it is idiopathic (meaning the cause is unknown). It also affects adults but is less common.

Types of Scoliosis

Image taken from: SpineInfo

A healthy spine has three main natural curves to keep it supple and flexible. When viewed from the side, it is curved inwards (lordotic) in the neck and lower back areas (cervical and lumbar spine), and curved outwards (kyphotic) in the upper-middle back area (thoracic spine).

When viewed from the back, a healthy spine lays straight down the middle of the body. However in some cases, it might show pronounced curves to the left or right, coupled with rotation. In such cases, Scoliosis might be present.

Can I “cure” or manage Scoliosis?

While Scoliosis is incurable, its symptoms and progression can definitely be managed!

Thus far, medical research has shown that conservative treatment approaches (e.g. braces and exercises) could be viable alternatives to surgery. The key importance here is also the regular monitoring of how the curve progresses, so that physiotherapeutic Scoliosis specific exercises (PSSE) can be constantly reviewed to fit one’s needs.

What kinds of exercises are good for managing Scoliosis?

Studies have shown that ANY exercise is better than no exercise in managing the discomfort and curve progression in Scoliosis. A mix of stretching and strengthening exercises work best. Exercises that focus on core strengthening for a stronger trunk and back are usually key to keeping the spine supported.

For children, the focus is on building neuromuscular control of the trunk using simple Pilates exercises like controlled Bird-Dog, Bridge, Double Leg Abdominal Presses and Prone Planks.

Bird-Dog – strengthens the posterior chain of the body to hold itself upright

Bridge on the Pilates Reformer – glute/ back/ hamstring strengthening

Prone Planks – full body strengthening

Double Leg Abdominal Presses – strengthens the anterior chain, especially the abdominal wall

For adolescents, the focus shifts to core strengthening of the abdominals and back to keep the spine more neutral. Exercises like Sitting Rotation, Swan Lifts and Planks are great additions to one’s routine. Gentle stretches like the Side Child’s Pose and breathing exercises help to relieve persistent tightness too.

Alongside Pilates exercises, it is also very important for the child to relearn the optimal postures when sitting and standing. As this postural readjustment requires constant proprioceptive feedback for the child to learn before it becomes a habit of holding oneself upright, it is important for parents to also jump onboard in being educated on recommended sitting and standing positions, so that they can support their child in this process of change.

How can Pilates help?

To support this, parents can consider investing in Pilates private sessions to build a wealth of knowledge, keeping their child and themselves healthy in all aspects of life. Over the course of several private sessions, the instructor will work with the child to carry out a Home Exercise Programme that fits the needs, abilities and motivation level of the child. While private sessions can take place 1-2 times a week, home exercises should be carried out 4-7 times a week for improvements to be felt. To be able to carry oneself with more strength and stability requires effort built over time, and is not a quick fix.

While Scoliosis is incurable, its symptoms can be managed and reduced with the right interventions when taken in a timely manner. With this, we hope that more individuals can receive the right intervention to support them in living their most vibrant and healthy lives. Come talk to us to find out if a personalized program to help you learn more about your curvature and what you can do at home to best manage your condition is the best way forward.

Extras: Demystifying Scoliosis Measurement – A quick guide

Image taken from: scoliosis3dc

When people refer to the scoliosis angle, they are typically referring to the Cobb angle (measurement shown on the left). However, the Scoliometer™ measurement (right) is also important in monitoring scoliosis and is also measured in degrees.

The Cobb angle shows the degree in which the spine curves laterally. This is measured from a full spine x-ray. Conversely, the Scoliometer™ measurement shows the degree of scoliosis rotation, also known as vertebral rotation or Angle of Trunk Rotation (ATR).

While different, both measurements are useful because a lateral curvature of the spine typically comes together with vertebral rotation. Different exercises are prescribed, depending on how much one’s spine curves laterally or rotates.

While every case of scoliosis is unique, the Scoliometer™ reading gives a good gauge of scoliosis progression. When the readings fall over time, it is a good indication that scoliosis has stabilized or improved too. This said, we recommend that it is best that parents allow the same practitioner to measure the child’s scoliosis as they will know the exact vertebral location from previous measurements, allowing for consistent results.

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