Physical Therapy Demystified: Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a common ailment affecting about six to nine million people in the United States. Most people's first introduction to scoliosis is with a test in grade school where a nurse feels the length of the spine looking for curves. These tests are looking for unnatural curvature of the spine, generally known as "c" or "s" curves.

Normally the spine naturally curves at the cervical, thoracic, and cervical regions. With scoliosis, the spine curves out towards the edges of the body instead of towards or away from the body. While it is necessary for a doctor to diagnose scoliosis, there are some indications you or someone you're close to might be suffering from this condition. 


  1. If the head does not rest evenly between the shoulders it might be an indication of a curvature in the spine
  2. The body leaning heavily to one side is also an indication of possible scoliosis
  3. In many cases shoulders, hips, and ribs might be uneven with one side sitting noticeably higher than the other 
  4. Spine curvature might be accompanied with back pain


Scoliosis is diagnosed through medical examination. A hands-on exam, however, isn't sufficient for a positive diagnosis. Medical professionals rely on further testing for more information before setting a treatment plan. Information is gathered through several modes of medical testing. 

  1. X-ray
  2. MRI
  3. CT/CAT Scan

There are many different types of scoliosis depending on age, onset, and other physical abnormalities caused by scoliosis. 


Treatment depends on several things ranging from the age of the patient and the type of scoliosis the patient is suffering from. The degree and extent of the curve, the progression of the curvature, and the location of the spinal curvature will also inform the medical professional's treatment plan.

Some plan might include bracing, or surgery while some cases might only require observation. 

Physical Therapy

Recent research has shown that in many cases exercise can be effective in treating scoliosis. The treatment plans are effective in helping to relieve pain, slow the curvature of the spine, and help the lungs and other organs maintain full function as they shift around the curving spine. 

If treatment requires surgery your physical therapist will be prepared to guide you through your post-surgical recovery. The therapy for post-surgical scoliosis will be aimed at relieving pain and building strength and mobility in the back, neck, and hips.

If you need more information on scoliosis, diagnosis, and treatment send us an email of call to speak with one of our qualified and helpful staff members in our New York City or Westchester physical therapy offices.