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What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis refers to misalignment of the spine in which the vertebrae begin to slip into a rotation and side bending away from midline, creating an “S” or “C” curve when seen from the back. There are several variations of how many curves can form, how severe they are, whether the upper back or lower back is more affected, and in which directions the curves are going, but the overall impact on the body is one of imbalance.

Muscles on one side of the spine are pulled tight and often painful, while muscles on the other side are overly short, and the same is true for muscles in the hips and thighs, with one side over-lengthened and opposing muscles overly shortened. Any muscles that are operating in a too-long or too-short position are weaker than they should be, and the weakness of the muscles along the spine can allow for worsening of the scoliosis over time.

Symptoms of Scoliosis

Symptoms of scoliosis may include noticing that one shoulder is higher than the other, one hip higher than the other, a sensation of a hump or uneven roundness in one side of the posterior ribcage and upper back, or back pain that is more one-sided.  However, any of these symptoms can occur with other conditions besides scoliosis, so you will need to be evaluated by your doctor or physical therapist to determine if you have scoliosis.

Causes of Scoliosis

Scoliosis can be caused by any number of other conditions, particularly neurological conditions that involve weakness of spinal and core muscles or overall low muscle tone throughout the body.  However, it is most commonly idiopathic, in which there is unclear reason for onset of the condition but often a family history and genetic predisposition to scoliosis.  It occurs more commonly in females and progresses most rapidly during periods of rapid growth or hormonal shifts.

Physical Therapy for Scoliosis

Physical therapy can help minimize scoliosis and reduce the chance of its progression by mobilizing tight joints, stabilizing the spine and pelvis in a more neutral position, strengthening the hips and core, and stretching the particular areas of muscular tightness contributing to the scoliosis.

Scoliosis Treatment at Shift

At Shift, we look at your overall relationship to your body and how to bring you into a better overall balance, such as finding more integrated symmetry in your breathing, posture, and daily activities. As you develop improved somatic awareness, you can organize your movements to more evenly distribute the effort and work of daily life throughout both sides of the body, reducing and sometimes even reversing the progression of scoliosis, even if you have had this condition for many years.