Exercise Can Help Scoliosis After All

For many years, exercise has been dismissed as an effective treatment for adolescent scoliosis (curvature of the spine). In this report, more recent findings in support of exercise are presented.

Looking back at previous studies of exercise for scoliosis, the authors report that many of the children didn't do the exercises. And those who did them, only did so occasionally. Unless the exercise program was designed to prepare for a sports activity, compliance was very low.

Improved technology and the ability to assess muscle function have changed the picture. We now know that there is asymmetry in muscle function for everyone with scoliosis. More specifically, there is an uneven strength in trunk rotation.

The former exercise programs of stretching and general strengthening may have been the wrong approach. Progressive resistive exercises (PREs) are effective for curves less than 45 degrees. This has been shown with the use of exercise equipment that can measure muscle function.

First, a baseline measurement was taken. Then an exercise program was prescribed and supervised. Torso rotation equipment was used. Exercises were done for 15 minutes, twice a week. Measurements were repeated.

EMG studies showed that the muscles along the spine called paraspinal muscles were inhibited at first. After the exercise program, this was corrected, and muscle function was equal on both sides.

The authors conclude that PREs for torso rotation and lumbar extension are safe and simple to do. Resistance should be started at one-fourth of the patient's body weight.

Resistance can be increased when the child can do 20 repetitions. They should be prescribed and performed using the proper equipment before bracing is used. Adults with scoliosis can be helped by this program, too. It may not change the degree of their curvature, but it can help control back pain.

Reference: 

Vert Mooney, MD, et al. Exercise for Managing Adolescent Scoliosis. In Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine. March 2007. Vol. 24. No. 3. Pp. 107-115.

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