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Scoliosis and Physical Therapy

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Physical therapy is used to increase function, range of motion, and strength in a specific part of the body. When paired with other treatments or interventions, it can help improve outcomes and have longer-lasting results. There are many physical therapy specialties, and physical therapy for scoliosis requires a specific training program that certifies an individual to practice in that sub-specialty.

In celebration of Scoliosis Awareness Month, we interviewed Amy Sbihli, MPT, DPT, the founder and director of Spine Academy Physical Therapy, co-owner of BSPTS-North America, and a practicing Rigo Concept therapist and teacher. Amy provides some important information about scoliosis-specific physical therapy to help you make a more informed decision in your scoliosis journey.

How does physical therapy help with scoliosis bracing treatment?

Physical therapists who are trained in physiotherapy scoliosis specific exercises (PSSE) will educate the patient and family on managing life with a scoliosis brace. In correlation with scoliosis bracing, the goal of PSSE is to create a ‘muscle brace’ to support the posture and mechanics whether the patient is wearing the scoliosis brace or not. PSSE works toward creating a new muscle and mind scaffolding to support your bones and posture. The benefit of this is that when you are not thinking about your posture, like while you are at school, work, playing your instrument, sleeping, watching a movie, or on your phone, you can rely on the learned corrections that the exercise, training, and brace provide so that you remain compliant with your treatment goals. Over time, PSSE posture and mechanics become automatic, and the PSSE physical therapist helps you accomplish this outcome.

My doctor did not prescribe physical therapy with my scoliosis bracing treatment. Does that mean it doesn’t work?

No, but sometimes your treating physician is evaluating multiple medical factors at once and is focusing on the top priorities for your specific case. It’s never too late to start PSSE.

Does it matter what type of PSSE I get?

If you have a 2D sagittal imbalance (kyphosis) or scoliosis, you will meet with a physical therapist who has training in PSSE. (An online or weekend course or an overview of what scoliosis physical therapy is doesn’t qualify you as a trained physical therapist in PSSE.) When you call to make a PSSE physical therapy appointment, be sure to ask if your therapist has a certification (or is in the certification process) for PSSE treatment.

How many times a week would I have to go to PT? And for how long?

Your physical therapist will evaluate your curve, strength, mobility, and expectations to create a program that fits your goals. Each person’s situation is different and must be treated on an individual basis. For example, small curves or older teens will have a different program than younger teenagers with moderate-sized curves.

Important final thoughts about PSSE:

  • Remember, there is more to PSSE than just some home exercises. During therapy, you learn how to manage your body in your regular daily activities.
  • PSSE isn’t helpful if you are not interested in learning, trying, or practicing the exercises given. It takes time and effort outside of your PT visit to apply and practice the progress made during your PT visit.
  • If you are unsure whether you want to try PSSE, consider asking your PSSE PT if you can talk to a formerly PSSE-trained teen.

More information can be found at:

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