Scoliosis and Biokinetic Rehabilitation Explained

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Scoliosis is an orthopaedic condition that displays as a lateral curvature of the spine resembling a C or S shape. Due to the unnatural curvature of the spine, scoliosis causes major muscular imbalances within the body. This can lead to back pain, loss of functionality and in severe cases trouble breathing and cardiac complications. Scoliosis is a lifetime condition, but the rate of progression of the condition can be managed and maintained. Possible interventions include orthopaedic braces, physical exercise and, in more severe cases, surgery. In this article, scoliosis and biokinetic rehabilitation is explained.

Diagnosis

The spine is made up of 33 bones referred to as vertebrae. The vertebrae are divided into 5 regions of the spine: the Cervical (upper 7), the Thoracic (middle 12), the Lumbar (lower 5), the Sacral and Coccygeal spine. Scoliosis can occur at any one of these regions resulting in a 3-dimensional deviation of the spinal axis. Scoliosis is diagnosed according to the degree of curvature of the spine, measured as the Cobb angle.  The size of the curve tends to increase over the entire lifetime, but the rate of progression varies according to:

  • Maturity
  • Age at diagnosis
  • Amount of skeletal growth remaining
  • The curve size (Cobb angle)
  • Position of the curve
  • Participation and commitment to a rehabilitative program
Spinal Curvature Infographic of different types of scoliosis
Infographic demonstrating different types of Scoliosis
Image by Macrovector on Freepik

Symptoms

The most noticeable symptom of scoliosis is an incorrect posture. Common physical attributes include an elevated hip and shoulder on one side of the body, as well as leg length discrepancy between legs, and a slight inward or outward rotation of the pelvis. This can lead to the development of a limp, shortening of one’s height, decreased mobility and flexibility in certain movements, and the necessity of walking aids. Scoliosis can also have major effects on one’s self-esteem and beliefs in physical capabilities. This can leave them demotivated to undertake the lengthy process needed to correct this complex condition.

Treatment

Scoliosis can be treated conservatively, non-conservatively, or both. The best treatment method is determined by considering the severity of the condition and subsequent pain and loss of functionality that the individual is suffering with. Non-conservative treatment aims to correct and maintain the curvature of the spine using surgery. While the aim of conservative treatment is to prevent further progression of the curve, correction of the existing deformity, and to decrease the need for surgery. This is achieved through various different types of spinal bracing, accompanied by a specialised exercise prescription program. Such programs are designed to loosen and stretch the muscles on one side of the spine. While the body is simultaneously strengthening and tightening the muscles on the opposite side of the spine.

Scoliosis and Biokinetic Rehabilitation

As Biokineticists, our goals would be centered around:

Addressing and correcting postural compensations and imbalances

Through a series of specialized assessments, a tailored resistance exercise program can be introduced. A resistance program will focus on identified areas of weakness. And will be supplemented with range of motion and mobility exercises to release and stretch the opposing muscle groups. Over a period of time, the combination of braces and the exercises can decrease the progression of the curvature and even correct spine.

Pain Relief through Aqua Therapy

At Fish and Field we are fortunate to have Aqua Therapy facilities. Aqua therapy can be a particularly beneficial mode of treatment for scoliosis. The warm water relaxes muscles, alleviates stiffness, and decreases the chances of cramps and spasms. This is due to less pressure being exerted on the spine by gravity, as a result of the buoyancy. Water also provides resistance, which works out your muscles the same way as weights and gym machines do but without adding compressive pressure to your spine.

Another reason swimming is good for scoliosis is that it generally strengthens the core muscles over the whole trunk. Core strength offers more stability and protection from falls for those who struggle with balance. This is a great confidence boost for many patients. The warm water can also be a great medium to stretch in as it provides a warming and loosening effects on the muscles and joints of the body.

Aqua Therapy Exercises for Scoliosis

A great exercise to do in the water is rowing. This works and strengthens the latissimus dorsi and other back muscles, it can also be used unilaterally to strengthen one side of the body.  In this aqua rendition, the client sits on a kickboard remaining in the seated position with the engagement of the core muscles. The legs kick underneath to provide an upward force. The patient then uses the chest press bar to row through the water and propel themselves forward.

Planking is a simple way to strengthen the body’s core and improve stability and strength of the muscles supporting the spine. In this instance, a noodle is placed underneath the body at 90 degrees the patient allows the body and legs to float to the surface and kicks lightly to keep the legs afloat.

Aqua Therapy offers pain relief for scoliosis as demonstrated by Fish and Field Biokinetics staff
Aqua Therapy for Scoliosis Pain Relief

Promoting functionality through corrective exercises

As Scoliosis progresses, an individual will face more pain and restriction in movements. As well as the potential loss of strength and conditioning. Our aim is to reduce this progression by introducing unilateral mobility and flexibility, as well as strength and resistance exercises. This allows the individual to maintain or gain the same level of daily activities, physical capability or sporting and athletic performance as a healthy-bodied individual.

To find out more about how we may be able to assist you with scoliosis and biokinetic rehabilitation, please contact us.

Jessica Wressel

Biokineticist at Fish & Field Biokineticists

Jessica holds a BScHons Biokinetics (WITS) and BA Human Kinetics and Ergonomics (Rhodes). She has also taken courses on Kinesio Taping and First Aid. Jessica has experience in both land-based and aqua-therapy biokinetics.

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