Physical therapists have been using the Schroth Method for decades to treat spinal curvature in patients of any age and at any stage of scoliosis. The Schroth Method focuses on reducing pain, stopping the progression of spinal curvature, and increasing lung capacity in those struggling with this debilitating condition.
Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine in one or more areas, including the neck, chest and upper back, or lower back. The spinal vertebrae may rotate as they curve, compressing the space between some vertebrae and elongating the space between others. For this reason, the Schroth method addresses all aspects of the spinal curve.
Kyphosis is a different spinal malformation characterized by an abnormal forward bend in the curvature of the spine. Studies find the Schroth Method is effective in treating both scoliosis and kyphosis.
Scoliosis Can Develop or Worsen at Any Age
Although scoliosis occurs most often in children and teens, it can also occur in adults. Sometimes an adult diagnosed with scoliosis as a child experiences a worsening of the condition as they age. In other cases, an adult may be newly diagnosed with scoliosis resulting from degeneration of the spine due to osteoporosis or another disease.
Symptoms of scoliosis in adults may include:
- A visible bulge on the back at the site of pain
- Uneven shoulders or hips
- Bone spurs on the spine
- Loss of height
- Leg weakness or numbness
- Difficulty walking
- Feeling full without eating
- Breathing issues or decreased endurance
Symptoms in children are similar; however, children may experience a more rapid curve progression because they are still growing.
Children, teens, and adults with scoliosis can benefit from Schroth therapy. Positive results may take longer for those who have had abnormal movement patterns, rigidity, or another scoliosis-related complication for a long time.
Goals of the Schroth Method
Finding she could not manage her scoliosis with bracing alone, Katharina Schroth developed a specialized treatment approach in the early 1900s. Schroth believed performing specific exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles, support posture, and increase muscle tone could improve a person’s spinal balance and stability.
Schroth believed proper pelvis alignment was necessary to give the spine the foundation it needed. Today, the Schroth Method teaches physical therapists to begin with exercises to strengthen and correct pelvic alignment before working on spinal elongation, de-rotation, and stabilization.
Schroth and her daughter went on to successfully treat hundreds of scoliosis patients with the Schroth Method, finding the program could often prevent curve progression and improve quality of life.
Physical therapists trained in Schroth’s method guide clients in a customized regimen of stretching, strengthening, posture exercises, and corrective breathing techniques. The exercise approach differs for each patient, as the physical therapist designs it to treat each person’s unique spinal curvature.
Goals of the Schroth Method include:
- Halt the progression of spinal curvature
- Decrease or eliminate pain
- Improve pelvic alignment
- Improve posture alignment and awareness
- Improve body mechanics and mobility
- Rebuild muscle symmetry
- Increase strength, flexibility, and endurance
- Improve breathing capacity
- Prevent or delay surgery
- Rehabilitate after surgery
Researchers have conducted many studies on the efficacy of the Schroth Method, with most concluding that the method helps improve posture, lung, and organ function, reduce curve progression, and lessen pain in those with scoliosis. Studies also support the use of the technique for patients with kyphosis, finding it especially effective in treating curvature of the thoracic spine (the upper and middle spine).
The Schroth Method seeks to:
- Correct spinal rotation and increase lung capacity with a rotational breathing technique
- Restore normal spinal position with pelvic corrections, breathing techniques, and stabilizing isometric contractions
- Improve your posture during routine daily living, not just during therapy
What to Expect from Physical Therapy Using the Schroth Method
Physical therapists certified in the Schroth Method want to prevent your scoliosis from worsening while also improving your quality of life. Your physical therapist seeks to achieve these goals by designing a customized program to help get you there.
For the best long-term results, Schroth experts recommend you commit to the following:
- Work with a Schroth-certified physical therapist in a qualified PT clinic
- Regularly practice the home exercises prescribed by your physical therapist
- Integrate breathing and awareness of correct postural position into your daily activities
When developing your treatment plan, your physical therapist will consider factors like your age, skeletal maturity and bone density, and the severity of your spinal curvature. Because scoliosis may have a spiraling or rotational effect on the spine, the Schroth method utilizes a 3D approach to treating your spine and surrounding muscles.
While the Schroth method seeks to improve spinal curvature without bracing, some individuals may benefit from using a brace to help support the spine, unload deforming pressure, reduce pain, and slow the progression of their spinal curve.
During a Schroth therapy session, you may work with props like therapy balls, a wall ladder, poles, exercise bands, and more. Working with a physical therapist trained in the Schroth Method is essential.
During your Schroth sessions, your physical therapist will teach you exercises, movements, and breathwork, which you will perform in the clinic and at home.
While the duration of the program may vary according to individual needs, a typical session is about 45 minutes long, with patients attending between five and twenty sessions.
Studies find that most patients see an improvement in their curvature, breathing, posture, pelvic alignment, and movement patterns after completing the in-clinic program. Patients who remain diligent with home exercise and incorporate proper breathing and body mechanic techniques into their daily lives often continue to improve.
Schroth physical therapy includes a comprehensive evaluation and review of medical history, a personalized treatment plan, hands-on instruction, and a home exercise program.
Studies Support the Effectiveness of the Schroth Method
Research conducted over many decades supports the efficacy of the Schroth Method for the treatment of scoliosis. Following are highlights of a few of those studies.
- The effectiveness of Schroth exercises in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Results of four randomized control trials concluded that “Schroth exercises have a significant effect on reducing the Cobb angle and improving QOL in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis.”
- Effects of the Schroth exercise on idiopathic scoliosis: a meta-analysis. Fifteen primary studies concluded that “the Schroth exercise is a recommended treatment method for scoliosis patients.”
- Effectiveness of Schroth exercises during bracing in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Results of the study found “Schroth exercise during bracing was superior to bracing alone in improving Cobb angles, trunk rotation, and QOL scores.”
- The effectiveness of the Schroth method of physical therapy for treating an adult with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) in an out-patient clinic found “out-patient physical therapy utilizing the Schroth method may be a successful alternative to the traditional methods of treating scoliosis.”
Why Choose MOTION for Scoliosis Treatment?
Since 2015, MOTION has provided transformative physical and occupational therapy services to clients of all ages. Our highly skilled team includes several physical therapists trained in the Schroth Method to treat scoliosis and other spinal deformities.
At MOTION, our mission is to improve the lives of every client as we help them get back to what moves them. Contact us today to learn more about our specially trained and certified therapists who effectively treat scoliosis with the Schroth technique.
See the resources listed below for more information on scoliosis and the Schroth Method.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases gives a comprehensive overview of symptoms, causes, and treatment of Scoliosis in Children and Teens