Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is a rare (2% to 3% of the general population) spinal deformity affecting young people aged 10 through the end of the growth period. The deformity may continue into adulthood. AIS is characterised by one or more three-dimensional spinal curves. Disability, cosmetic deformity, pain, activity limitation, quality of life issues, breathing problems and the possibility of the scoliosis remaining with the person into and throughout adulthood are commonly associated with this condition. The cause of AIS is unknown.
Treatment for AIS varies according to the degree of severity of the curves. Just the same, exercise is almost always a part of the treatment plan. In milder cases, exercise may be the main treatment, and in more severe cases it may serve as an adjunct. In the UK and the US, physical therapy for scoliosis consists mainly of general strengthening and stretching exercises, along with exercise protocols with which the treating therapist is familiar. There is a corresponding feeling among practitioners in these geographical locations that physical therapy for scoliosis is not effective.
Scoliosis specific exercises (SSEs) are individualised exercises aimed at reducing the deformity. SSEs are taught in clinics that specialize in scoliosis. The exercises work by changing the soft tissue that affects the spine. SSEs are also thought to work by altering control of spinal movement. There are no known side effects or risks to using SSEs .
The purpose of this review was to evaluate the effectiveness of SSEs in reducing curve progression and postponing or avoiding invasive treatment such as surgery in adolescents with AIS. Two studies involving 154 patients total were included. The review found no evidences for or against SSE. The two included studies yielded very low quality evidence that SSEs added to other treatments are more effective than electrical stimulation, traction and posture training for avoiding curve progression, and that SSEs as a standalone treatment yield almost the same results as general physiotherapy.
Possible limitations of this review included the small number of studies that met the inclusion criteria and a high risk of bias, particularly selection bias. More randomised controlled trials are needed in this area, along with a deeper understanding of the types of SSEs useful for the adolescent with AIS.
Comment from Dr. Kevin Lau: I have seen time and time again that therapies that merely focus on the physical deformity and imbalance to be ineffective... Treating scoliosis at its source involves diet and lifestyle changes which can affect how genes are expressed. For more info read my book.
About Dr Kevin Lau
Dr Kevin Lau DC is the founder of Health In Your Hands, a series of tools for Scoliosis prevention and treatment. The set includes his book Your Plan for Natural Scoliosis Prevention and Treatment, a companion Scoliosis Exercises for Prevention and Correction DVD and the innovative new iPhone application ScolioTrack. Dr Kevin Lau is a graduate in Doctor of Chiropractic from RMIT University in Melbourne Australia and Masters in Holistic Nutrition. He is a member of International Society On Scoliosis Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Treatment (SOSORT), the leading international society on conservative treatment of spinal deformities. In 2006 I was awarded the "Best Health-care Provider Awards" by the largest Newspaper publication in Singapore on October 18 2006 as well as being interviewed on Primetime Channel News Asia as well as other TV and Radio. For more information on Dr Kevin Lau, watch his interviews or get a free sneak peek of his book, go to: http://www.hiyh.info.