While spinal curvature can develop at any time in a person’s life, there is a tremendous window of opportunity to rehabilitate these changes when it is noticed at a young age, before bony maturity is reached. In fact, idiopathic curvatures most frequently develop during growth spurts, before or during puberty.
The etiology or the reason scoliosis develops is the subject of much research, but so far, no answer has been identified and agreed upon. Often,the young person is very flexible, often very active. Because they are so flexible, they spend time in extreme postures- this is where they can feel a sense of stability, at an extreme end range of motion. Breathing patterns and breathing problems early in life, likely also play a roll in spine and rib cage position changes during development. There are functional curves and structural curves. A functional curve results from a movement pattern or body posture. If that pattern or position persists and is continually reinforced, structural changes can then begin to occur. For instance,the spinal vertebrae begin to wedge and/ or rotate. As a curvature becomes more structural,it becomes more challenging to restore alignment.
In a growing child or adolescent, a window of opportunity is present even with structural curves. The term “vicious cycle” refers to factors which cause curve progression once the curve magnitude has passed a critical point. These factors include gravitational forces, breathing patterns, muscle imbalances, and the neurological body schema. However, all of these same factors can be employed to reverse the “vicious cycle” and transform it into a “victorious cycle”. This is most effective when bones are still growing and can be more easily reformed by carefully applied influences.
Scoliosis specific exercises utilize these very factors of muscle re-balancing, breath, gravity and body schema to reshape and realign the spinal segments and ribcage. The process of rehabilitation is challenging; it requires commitment, time and persistence from both the young person and from a supportive and involved parent. However, the rewards are tremendous! The young person is empowered by self awareness and by the experience of being able to self correct their posture and movement.
These skills will last their lifetime! While they may struggle and not fully appreciate the impact of their efforts initially, they will certainly in the future.