Schroth Method for Treating Scoliosis

If you have scoliosis — a curvature of the spine — you may find that the Schroth method of physical therapy (PT) is right for you. The purpose of this specific type of PT is to reduce pain, improve mobility, and help improve everyday function.

A noninvasive treatment, the Schroth method of PT consists of exercises that help strengthen and improve muscle imbalances due to scoliosis.

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine takes on a 3D curve in an S or C shape. Though the cause of scoliosis is unknown, it often starts in adolescence. But it can also occur later as a degenerative form of scoliosis in adults.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

How Is Scoliosis Treated?

“Scoliosis treatments are custom-tailored to each person based on their specific curvature,” says Lauren Azzarello PT, DPT, a senior physical therapist at UPMC Rehabilitation Institute: South Hills.

“Children and teens with mild scoliosis may only need semiannual follow-up visits with their doctor who will monitor the curve progression while they’re still growing. If the curve is progressing, they also may be referred to a DPT for physical therapy treatment. Patients with moderate scoliosis also may benefit from bracing, in addition to PT, depending on the degree of curvature. For severe cases of scoliosis, surgery also may be recommended.”

What Is the Schroth Method of Physical Therapy?

Katharina Schroth, a German-born physiotherapist who had scoliosis herself, developed this nonsurgical scoliosis treatment in the 1930s. It is a form of PT for both children and adults diagnosed with scoliosis.

“The Schroth method for scoliosis consists of specific exercises that help stretch and strengthen the musculature along the spine,” says Azzarello, who is a Certified Primary Spine Practitioner and Certified Schroth Therapist. “Nearly every person with scoliosis can benefit from the Schroth method exercises — no matter their age or the severity of their curve.”

Physical therapists base treatments on each person’s unique curvature, including the rotational component of the vertebrae that occurs with scoliosis.

The exercises in the Schroth method of therapy focus on three key elements:

  • Muscular symmetry. When you have scoliosis, the curve in the spine affects your back muscles. On one side, the muscles get weak, and on the other side, they work too hard, causing a painful imbalance. The Schroth method helps balance both sides to better support the spine.
  • Rotational angular breathing. These special breathing techniques help improve lung function, rib movement, and flexibility.
  • Awareness of posture. Schroth therapists will teach you certain postural techniques based on your curve. You can use these techniques during daily activities to help reduce the stress placed on the spine.

The goals of Schroth exercises for scoliosis are to:

  • Decrease pain.
  • Improve breathing.
  • Improve gait and balance.
  • Improve postural awareness.
  • Improve the ability to perform everyday activities.

What Are Some Schroth Method Exercises?

Specific movements vary from person to person based on each curve. You’ll perform these specific exercises while in certain positions. You may use beanbags may to help place the spine in a better position while you complete strengthening exercises.

Other pieces of equipment you may use during Schroth PT to help strengthen weakened muscles include:

  • Exercise bands
  • Stability balls
  • Stall bars

For How Long Should You Do Schroth Exercises?

It depends on how severe your scoliosis is. The Schroth method is a long-term commitment. For best results, you should implement these techniques into your daily routine for a lifetime.

Most people start with in-person PT sessions a few times a week based on their limitations. When you finish your in-person program, your therapist will give you exercises you can do on your own at home.

How Successful Is the Schroth Method for Scoliosis?

The Schroth method has helped people with scoliosis for nearly 100 years, reducing pain and improving strength and mobility.

You may also notice:

  • Improved posture.
  • Increased core strength.
  • Better lung function.

Can Schroth Exercises Reverse or Cure Scoliosis?

No. Although Schroth exercises can’t cure scoliosis, they can help:

  • Strengthen and stabilize the spine, which may ease scoliosis pain.
  • Slow the curve’s progression as you age.
  • Counteract the pull of gravity on the spine.

Where Can I Find a Schroth Physical Therapist Near Me?

At the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, we have physical therapists trained in the Schroth method. Many of our 60+ outpatient rehab locations have certified Schroth therapists.

Currently, we offer this scoliosis treatment at a number of locations.

Find a clinic that offers Schroth therapy for scoliosis near you.

About UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.