Scoliosis - curvature of the spine
Scoliosis is defined as a sideways bend of the spine of greater than 10 degrees accompanied by a rotation of the vertebra. Luckily of the estimated 2-4% of the population who have scoliosis only a small number require anything more invasive than physiotherapy. The most common type of scoliosis is idiopathic (which means of unknown cause) and accounts for 80% of cases of scoliosis. The remaining 20% are either congenital or neuromuscular in origin.
What exactly is the problem with having a curvature of the spine? In certain cases back pain, limb pain or abdominal pain can develop as a result of the scoliosis. In more severe cases lung capacity can be affected by the twisting of the rib cage. But for many patients the main problem from scoliosis is cosmetic.
Physiotherapists have a key role in screening for scoliosis- in fact we regularly identify people with scoliosis- often this isn’t even the reason why the patient is coming for physiotherapy! When conducting our examination we always thoroughly examine our patient’s posture looking for tell tale signs of scoliosis. It is worth periodically checking children from age 8-14 for any tell tale signs of scoliosis. If you have any concerns about a child’s posture they should be screened by a physiotherapist or doctor.
What to look for:
- One shoulder higher than the other
- One hip higher than the other
- A hump on one side of the ribs when bending forwards
- Particularly prominent shoulder blade/s
Physiotherapy treatment for mild cases of scoliosis involves postural education and intensive stretching and strengthening exercises.
Senior BOOST PHYSIO Laura Harman has spent time working at a specialist treatment centre for scoliosis and is a member of SOSORT- Society on Scoliosis Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Treatment.