For teenagers with scoliosis, a new study in the open-access journal PLOS ONE shows Schroth therapy-specialized physical therapy exercises-can improve the curve of the spine, muscle endurance, and quality of life.
“Currently, patients diagnosed with scoliosis are either monitored for progression, treated with a brace, or in severe cases, offered surgery,” explained Sanja Schreiber, PhD, an author on the study and a research associate from the University of Alberta (UAlberta), Edmonton, Canada, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. “Our study showed that 88 percent of patients who did the Schroth physiotherapeutic scoliosis-specific exercises showed improvements or prevented progression in their scoliosis curves over six months compared to 60 percent in the group receiving only standard of care.”
The randomized control trial studied 50 adolescents with scoliosis ranging in age from ten to 18 years with curves of 10 to 45 degrees Cobb angle. After six months of Schroth physiotherapy-a 30 to 45-minute daily home program and weekly supervised sessions-88 percent of patients either had improving curves beyond or remaining within 5 degrees of their baseline curve magnitude. The average curve in the control group deteriorated by 2.3 degrees. Overall, the difference between the Schroth and the control group was 3.5 degrees. The study also showed Schroth therapy had positive effects on pain, body image, and muscle endurance.
“These short-term results are clinically significant and show that Schroth physiotherapy exercises could help many patients with scoliosis if this type of conservative management is added to the standard of care,” said Eric Parent, PhD, a co-author on the study and an associate professor of physical therapy from the UAlberta Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. The results have justified further research, with the establishment of the Multicenter Schroth Exercise Trial.
“The current standard of care for smaller curves is very much ‘wait and see’ while parents and patients demand a more proactive approach. I’d like to encourage them to ‘try and see,'” Schreiber said. “Try Schroth and see if it helps. Not only in our study, but also in my clinical practice, I’ve seen so many teens who have experienced pain improvement and feel better overall with Schroth exercises. Also, they feel they are in control of their scoliosis, because the Schroth method teaches them how to stand, sit, walk, and do other daily activities correctly, so that they can keep their best posture.”
Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by UAlberta.