Working with Scoliosis Clients

Scoliosis is one of the most stubborn, abundant disorders in growing children and teens. The good news is that Pilates professionals can help ease the pain scoliosis sufferers experience through movement. The question is, how does one go about helping someone find peace with this condition?

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a skeletal deformation, usually the result of growth spurts during adolescence, congenital spinal abnormalities, and other defects. 65 – 80% of scoliosis cases are idiopathic or of unknown origin. In sufferers, the spine is bent out of shape (no pun intended). Sometimes minimally or sometimes dramatically, the spine contorts into a C or an S shape. The Cobb angle is widely used to test for scoliosis, which is a measure done by locating distorted vertebrae and marking their paths on the back.

Early onset or early childhood scoliosis appears before 5 years of age and makes up 2% of all reported cases. It is sometimes associated with severe respiratory failure and, by affecting lung growth, may lead to decreased respiratory capacity even before puberty. Late-onset idiopathic scoliosis appears after 5 years through adolescence and usually occurs at puberty, around age 10. In such cases, complications with breath and healthy lung function have been reported. When left untreated, these conditions are exaggerated and the spine can be very distorted, to the point where the backbones can only be fixed through surgery. Most cases of scoliosis, however, resolve themselves with age, moderate exercise, and physical therapy.

How to Treat Scoliosis

Polestar Graduate Lise Stolze gives a few tips on exercises you could try when working with scoliosis clients.

Alternatives for Scoliosis Treatment

  • Observation: where the deviation does not exceed 20º.
  • Use of corset: Used to slow the progression of the curve during the growth stage in people whose curvature is between 20º and 45º.
  • Surgery: Stop the evolution of the curve and, if possible, to correct it. It is indicated for the minors of growing age whose curve is greater than 45º and for adults with curves higher than 50º.
  • Physiotherapy and active rehabilitation: These treatments seek to slow the progression of curvature, improve respiratory function and reduce pain.

These types of treatments can be combined with different techniques. These include electro-stimulation through medium-frequency currents, heat treatments with IR to increase tissue elasticity and circulation, and lumbar traction to reduce compression in the spine. Kinesiotherapy uses movement-based exercises that include stretching, exercises to strengthen weakened muscles, and those that seek to invert the curves of the spine by position.

Therapeutic exercises for scoliosis treatment are based on principles that we manage day by day in Pilates such as postural reeducation, flexibility and muscular strength. The Schroth Method is a good example of a regimen that targets scoliosis to reduce pain and the rapid growth of scoliosis. The method focuses on postural and breathing exercises, spine flexibility, and convex-side stretching. It has been praised for being effective in minimizing symptoms.

These tips will not cure scoliosis, as most forms will resolve themselves naturally. However, these techniques will greatly reduce the discomfort that usually comes with this disorder. This is also true for recovery from extreme scoliosis. The key is to continue positive movement experiences and expanding our knowledge of this disorder to gain insight on how best to stop it.


More Information: Lise Stolze will be teaching the course, Pilates Adaptations for People with Scoliosis (Supporting the Teachings of the Scroth Method), with Scroth educator Hagit Berdishevsky. For more information, click here.

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