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Physical Therapy for Scoliosis – Information, Exercises, and More

You’ve been diagnosed with scoliosis. Back pain, weakness in your legs, and lack of flexibility are just a few things you may find yourself dealing with daily. 

You’re tired of wasting time and energy dealing with the discomforts that come with your diagnosis. It’s been life-altering for you — and not in a positive way. 

But how can you overcome scoliosis issues? 

Physical therapy for scoliosis is one of your options, and it’s helped countless people suffering from scoliosis find relief.

We hope that this guide will help you learn more about scoliosis and find that you can overcome the symptoms of your condition. 



What is Scoliosis?

When one hears that someone has scoliosis, a young child usually 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 adolescents—and particularly adolescent girls. 

However, adults can continue to suffer from 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 due to scoliosis into two types:

  • Structural scoliosis
  • Nonstructural scoliosis

Structural Scoliosis

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

Structural scoliosis can occur at any age but is most commonly diagnosed in children and adolescents. It can progress as a person grows, causing pain, poor posture, and difficulty with physical activities. 

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

Nonstructural Scoliosis

In nonstructural scoliosis, also referred to as functional scoliosis, the spine works normally but looks curved. This is typically caused by an issue or condition, like: 

  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • One leg being longer than the other
  • Postural habits
  • Muscle spasms
  • Inflammation

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

It’s important to note that not all cases of non-structural scoliosis are caused by conditions. Some are idiopathic or unknown.

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.

Diagnosing Scoliosis

Scoliosis can be diagnosed through a variety of methods. 

The most common method of diagnosis for scoliosis is a physical examination. During your appointment, a healthcare provider will look for signs of:

  • A curve in the spine
  • Uneven shoulders or hips; or 
  • A rib hump

The healthcare provider may also ask you to perform certain movements or bends to check for flexibility and range of motion in the back. 

In addition to a physical examination, diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, MRI, CT, and bone scans can also be used to diagnose scoliosis and measure the degree of the curve. 

Each of these options provides different things: 

  • 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

These tests can also be used to identify the type of scoliosis, whether it is structural or non-structural. 

A combination of tests and examinations will be used to get a clear diagnosis and determine the best course of action to take when creating a treatment plan.

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 several treatment options available for scoliosis, but the best option for you may depend on the …

  • Type
  • Severity; and
  • Progression

… of the curve. 

Some of the most common treatment options include the following: 

  • Observation
  • Physical Therapy
  • Bracing
  • Surgery


For patients dealing with mild cases — where the curve is not severe and is not likely to progress — of scoliosis, their healthcare provider may choose to observe your condition over time. During an “observation treatment,” your physician may: 

  • Perform regular check-ups and X-rays to monitor the curve and track any changes
  • Assess your symptoms — Are you having pain? Are you able to perform regular physical activities? 
  • Create a treatment plan with the best course of action based on the progression of the curve of your spine 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be a very successful non-invasive scoliosis treatment. Physical therapy may be helpful whether the scoliosis is moderate or severe. 

Physical therapy treatments can …

  • Help improve muscle strength
  • Improve flexibility 
  • Reduce pain; and
  • Correct the alignment of the spine in some cases of scoliosis 

… to help reduce the curve of your spine or improve symptoms associated with scoliosis. 

Your therapist will show you how to do physical therapy exercises for scoliosis, teach you how to maintain good posture, and provide feedback on what activities to avoid so you don’t worsen the curve. 


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 several types of braces:

  1. Boston – most commonly used in adolescents, this brace treats curves with an apex at the level of T-6 to L-3
  2. Underarm – Treats lower spine curves
  3. 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 interrupts your daily life or is 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

Can Physical Therapy Help Scoliosis?

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

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 – physical therapy exercises for scoliosis – 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 a reason. Don’t suffer silently any longer, request a free screening with In Motion O.C. today. 


The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

In Motion O.C.