Can Aquatic PT Improve Scoliosis in Children?

Aquatic pt and scoliosis picSo… Can Aquatic PT improve scoliosis in children?  There is growing evidence that corrective exercises guided by a physical therapist in an aquatic environment can improve spinal curves in children.  A study (1) in 2009 displayed improved thoracic kyphosis and lumbar lordosis in 94 children ages 8-13 with scoliosis.  The children also had increased strength in the lower portion of their spinal extensor muscles.  Treatment focused on corrective exercises and swimming strokes with focused movement.  Another study in 2005 (2) showed that postural deficits are common in children with scoliosis.  In 106 children referred to a 3 month swimming/aquatic therapy program, children displayed improved shoulder and scapular symmetry after receiving aquatic therapy treatment.   The authors hypothesize that the aquatic environment “relieves pressure on the spine, relaxes muscles, and makes it easier to assume the proper posture. Swimming allows joint pleasure – water play and learning to swim – with therapeutic action.”

While there is no known “cure” for scoliosis, aquatic physical therapy has great potential for influencing spinal curves, strengthening the core/spinal musculature, and improving postural symmetry!

1 Barczyk K, et al.  Changes in body posture in children with first-degree scoliosis taking part in corrective exercises in a water environment. Ortop Traumatol Rehabil. 2005 Apr 30;7(2):180-6.
2 Barczyk K, et al.  The influence of corrective exercises in a water envronment on the shape of the antero-posterior curves of the spine and on the functional status of the locomotor system in children with Io scoliosis. Ortop Traumatol Rehabil. 2009 May-Jun;11(3):209-21.

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