How Effective Is Massage Therapy to Treat Scoliosis?

Your spine has a natural S-shaped curve that allows your body to balance, lift and stand with ease. Scoliosis occurs when your spine curves unnaturally. Depending on the severity of scoliosis, the condition can result in pain, arthritis, fatigue and difficulty breathing. Traditional medical treatment may include exercises, the use of braces and surgery. Massage may be a treatment option to relieve the effects of scoliosis.

A woman is receiving a massage. (Image: John Lund/Paula Zacharias/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Structural Scoliosis

Structural scoliosis refers to the way the body is constructed. Congenital scoliosis is present at birth. It is caused by irregular spinal or rib development in utero. Neuromuscular scoliosis is due to muscular problems around the spine. It may be caused by diseases such as polio, muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy, muscular weakness or paralysis.

Functional Scoliosis

Functional scoliosis occurs when the spine is formed normally, yet appears curved. Injury, body compensation patterns, poor posture, uneven leg length, tight or spasming muscles or inflammation may cause functional, or secondary, scoliosis. Functional scoliosis may be identified when the spine straightens with bending or rotating movements. Functional scoliosis can worsen with time and become ingrained in the body's structure, making it more difficult to treat.

Massage Benefits

Massage can benefit those with structural and functional scoliosis. It helps relieve pain caused by scoliosis. Massage relaxes the muscles of your back and body and helps improve flexibility. A 2006 case report by Michael Hamm, LMP, found massage to be effective at relieving pain, improving sleep and increasing the ability to conduct daily activities for people with scoliosis. A skilled massage therapist can use a combination of massage strokes, sustained pressure, positioning and stretches to help balance the muscles of the back and body to relieve or eliminate functional scoliosis. Increased body awareness will allow you to change movement habits that contribute to functional scoliosis.

Recommendations

Consult a physician, chiropractor or physical therapist to learn the cause of your discomfort. Alert your massage therapist to any diagnoses, medical conditions, physical limitations or pain. Communicate with your massage therapist during your massage about your comfort and any sensations you have during and after your massage. Depending on the duration and cause of your condition, it is likely to take several massages to help you find relief. Allow your massage therapist to consult with your other medical practitioners so they can work together to assist you.

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