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Physical Therapy for Scoliosis – Information, Exercises, and More

If you have scoliosis, you know that the pressure put on your nerves by the curvature of your spine can have painful and life-altering consequences. 

You may wonder if physical therapy and exercise can help relieve some of the side effects you experience. 

We understand. We see many patients who have back ailments of all types.

The good news is that physical therapy has helped countless people with scoliosis to feel better and find relief. 

Keep reading to learn how it can help you too.

What is Scoliosis?

When one hears that someone has scoliosis, it’s usually a young child that comes to mind. Remember the spine checks in elementary and middle school PE? 

It’s true that for the 3% of the population who have scoliosis, it’s most commonly diagnosed in adolescentsand particularly adolescent girls. 

However, adults can continue to suffer from their adolescent scoliosis, and can even be diagnosed with scoliosis as adults. 

The Mayo Clinic defines scoliosis as a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. 

It can also be defined as an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine. 

Basically, someone with scoliosis will have a curve to some degree in their spine. In some cases, it will be noticeable to anyone. In other cases, it might not be noticeable at all. 

What Causes Scoliosis?

For about 80% of diagnosed cases, the cause is undefined—or idiopathic. 

But scoliosis can be caused by conditions such as:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Birth defects
  • Tumors
  • Infections
  • Genetic conditions (such as Down syndrome and Marfan syndrome)

Doctors usually divide the spine’s curve into two types:

  1. Structural scoliosis
  2. Nonstructural scoliosis

Structural Scoliosis

In structural scoliosis patients, there is a rigid sideways curve to the spine that cannot be reversed.

This is the most common type of scoliosis and is considered permanent without treatment. 

Nonstructural Scoliosis

In nonstructural scoliosis, the spine works normally but looks curved

This can be caused by several reasons, including:

  • One leg being longer than the other
  • Muscle spasms
  • Inflammation

When these problems are treated, this type of scoliosis often goes away.

Scoliosis Symptoms

Scoliosis symptoms vary depending on the degree of scoliosis. 

Common symptoms include:

  • Back pain
  • A rotating spine
  • Problems breathing
  • One shoulder blade that’s higher than the other
  • One shoulder blade that protrudes outwardly more than the other

Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but some spine deformities continue to become more severe as children grow. Severe scoliosis can be disabling.

Symptoms Diagnosed – Physical Exam

Your primary doctor will examine your back, observing you while you stand with your arms at your sides. 

They’ll check for:

  • Spine curvature
  • Symmetry of your shoulders and waist

Your doctor will also ask you to bend forward to look for any curvature in your upper and lower back.

Symptoms Diagnosed – Imaging

There are a few different imaging tests that your doctor may order to check for scoliosis. 

They include:

  • X-ray
    • Creates a picture of your spine
  • MRI scan
    • Gets a detailed picture of your bones and tissue
  • CT scan
    • Allows for a 3-D picture of your body
  • Bone scan
    • Highlights spinal abnormalities


Scoliosis Treatment

Treatment for scoliosis is not a “one-size-fits-all” program for most patients. 

Your treatment will depend on many factors. Some of the things your doctor will consider when creating a treatment plan are:

  • The degree of spine curvature
  • The type of scoliosis
  • Your age
  • If you’re likely to continue growing

There are two main treatment options—bracing and surgery. 


According to the AANS, a brace is typically used when the scoliosis patient is still growing, and the curvature is more than 25 to 40 degrees. 

Braces won’t straighten the spine, but they can prevent the curvature from increasing. 

Bracing is most effective when scoliosis is detected early, and its effectiveness increases with the number of hours it’s worn per day (16-23 hours). 

There are two main types of braces:

  • Underarm
    • Treats lower spine curves
  • Milwaukee
    • Treats upper spine curves



If your spine curvature is greater than 40 degrees, then surgery may be an option. 

If you feel the curvature is interrupting your daily life or causing you discomfort, then it may be wise to talk to your doctor about surgery. 

The standard scoliosis surgery is a spinal fusion. 

In this type of procedure, your doctor will fuse your vertebrae together using a bone graft, rods, and screws. Eventually, the bone graft and vertebrae fuse into a single bone. In children, the rods can be adjusted as they grow. 

There are some risks and complications associated with a spinal fusion such as:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Failure to heal
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Nerve damage


Scoliosis Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

If you’re wondering if physical therapy will help your scoliosis, the short answer is …


There are numerous scientific studies on how specific scoliosis physical therapy exercises help to improve the curve of the spine, increase mobility, and lessen pain.

Best Scoliosis Physical Therapy Exercises

If you turn to the all-knowing powers of Google and search – exercises for scoliosis physical therapy – you’re likely to find things like:

  • Yoga poses
  • Stretches
  • Using good posture

All of those practices are great, and things that we often recommend to our clients. But there might be additional (more specific to your unique body) exercises that a trained physical therapist can help you with.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Scoliosis

Here at In Motion O.C., we are dedicated to helping you feel better. 

Our mission: To bring hope, healing, confidence, and joy to others. 

You don’t have to manage your scoliosis symptoms on your own. Our approach to combining physical therapy and personal training has worked for countless others like yourself. 

If you’re searching, “scoliosis physical therapy near me,” you’re likely to find us.

We’re the #1 physical therapist practice on Yelp for the entire country for a reason. Give us a call today to request a consultation.

*This information about physical therapy for Scoliosis was reviewed by Dr Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

In Motion O.C.