The Schroth technique recognizes and treats scoliosis as a three-dimensional problem, and patients with scoliosis are instructed in postural and breathing exercises designed to help with back flexibility, restore posture and balance, and reduce the effect gravity has on the spine.
Stevens Point physical therapists are taking on a new scoliosis treatment in the hopes of becoming a national center for a European-accepted practice called the Schroth technique.
"We as a society are not able to accept that anymore, to just sit and wait," said St. Michael's Hospital physical therapist Beth Janssen, who is certified in the technique from a clinic in Spain.
Scoliosis is a condition that for unknown reasons causes the spine to twist and curve from side to side.
In idiopathic scoliosis, sometimes known as adolescent scoliosis, preteens and teenagers diagnosed with the condition typically are braced when the curve is significant to prevent the curvature from increasing, and if severe enough, undergo surgery to install rods to help straighten the curvature, according to research.
In congenital scoliosis, vertebrae may not have segmented during development or there may be a deformed or half-formed vertebrae that causes the scoliosis. In many cases, various types of surgery are used to prevent or correct the deformity.
It is the idiopathic scoliosis that the Schroth model targets, though Dr. Manuel Rigo, a specialist in the field from Spain, said in some congenital cases the method can be used.
In any case, however, the Schroth method alone is not necessarily an answer, he said.
"The physiotherapy in general and the Schroth technique in particular cannot be taken as a treatment in competition with other treatments," he said. "It can be also used in combination with a brace as well as pre-surgically."
But the best results for the treatment are realized when the therapy is used in conjunction with other treatments, studies show.
"Some studies also suggest the possibility to prevent progression or deterioration by decreasing temporarily the magnitude of the curve," Rigo said. "It could act as a filter of the patients who really do not need a brace."
Spinal elongation exercises, isometric strengthening and rotational breathing are used to teach patients how to correct their posture.
A different brace, the Rigo-Scheneau brace, also is used with the treatment. The brace is custom-made to the individual with scoliosis and targets areas of weakness allowing room for those weak areas to gain strength and accounting for the space needed to improve the condition.
The cause of scoliosis is unknown, but about 2 percent of people have it with three to five of every 1,000 children developing severe spinal curves needing treatment. Girls are more likely to be affected than boys.
In some cases, other structural deformities of the spine can be treated with the Schroth technique.