What is the Schroth Best Practice for Scoliosis?
“The Schroth technique is a scoliosis specific back school. In the treatment programme, all possibilities for postural correction, including respiration, are used in order to enable the patients to help themselves.”
– Christa Lehnert-Schroth (1992)
The Schroth Method is a non-surgical principle of scoliosis treatment using scoliosis-specific exercise based on curve-pattern.
The scoliosis exercises do not resemble traditional exercises and the Schroth method includes a proprietary corrective breathing technique known as rotational breathing also known as rotational angular breathing (RAB). Each patient with scoliosis has a unique curve pattern and the goal of the Schroth method is to de-flex and de-rotate the trunk allowing a return to a more ‘normal’ physiological position.
The term scoliosis exercise leads people to think it’s easy to manage scoliosis via exercise – well it can be, once mastered. It is important that training is conducted by an experienced and knowledgeable expert in Schroth methodology. With focused instruction in the newest evolution of the Schroth method – Schroth Best Practice, it is possible for the patient to learn the skills needed for lifetime management and incorporate those into daily life. For those who opt to learn Schroth, the benefits are empowering.
About the Schroth Method
Schroth scoliosis-specific exercises target the core and trunk, but actually begins at the feet or pelvis. The exercises are used to correct the spine in three-dimensions and include specific set-ups, according to curve pattern, prior to beginning the exercise which will incorporate the rotational breathing. Creator Katharina Schroth developed the technique in Germany more than ninety years ago.
Simply stated, the purpose of the Schroth Method is to correct the spine in the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes. This is accomplished through deflexion, de-rotation and elongation of the spine and rib cage. The patient learns to strengthen the musculature surrounding the spine when they are in their newly formed posture. The purpose is to create spinal balance and stability.
Consistently working to correct the spine in this manner is a key to successful scoliosis management. Potential benefits for those who learn and practice the Schroth method are:
- halted or potentially reduced progression (adolescents)
- spinal de-rotation
- improved lung function
- improved chest expansion
- improved postural appearance
- a more balanced posture
- reduction or elimination of pain, if present
- an element of empowerment over scoliosis (the value of this cannot be underestimated) and the opportunity for control over what is often presumed to be a condition that is uncontrollable by the patient
The Schroth Method is unique to each individual
It is one of the reasons we choose to instruct patients on a one-on-one basis rather than in groups. There are many Schroth scoliosis exercises. The one’s chosen for each patient are determined by practitioner judgement and based on the curve pattern efficacy of each exercise for the individual. It is the reason choosing the right practitioner and program are extremely important. Not each exercise works for every individual’s circumstance, even for individuals with the same curve pattern, so experience and decisions in the clinical setting can be pivotal. Variables such as pain and postural considerations also play a role.
Patients must focus mentally and physically and work at internalizing the concepts of re-establishing spinal symmetry during each exercise. Schroth Best Practice takes the Schroth Method even further and patients are taught how to effect optimal postural control and awareness during everyday activities utilizing active 3D self-corrective movements.
For patients with scoliosis, the muscles along the spine become imbalanced on opposing sides. During Schroth exercise, the patient learns to shorten the muscles on the convex side of the spine and lengthen the muscles on the concave side of the spine. Patients learn Schroth rotatory breathing and taught to breathe into the concave side of the trunk. This ‘inhalation’ phase is followed by the ‘exhalation’ phase of Schroth, known as stabilization. Stabilization helps restore a more stable three-dimensional spinal alignment helping the patient experience the feeling of the corrected spinal posture in order to recognize how to maintain it.
Initially, efforts to re-balance spinal musculature is no easy task. Dedication and patience are required on the part of both the clinician and patient, but with practice, it becomes easier. For decades, in Germany, the Schroth Method has been taught via in-patient immersion and we also favor immersion-type training for several reasons. In the outpatient setting the benefits of learning Schroth principles in a short period of time clearly translate to improved outcomes. This is especially true for adolescent patients who are more easily able to understand the big picture when all the concepts are learned in a shorter span of time. The added benefit is that they gain the skills needed to halt scoliosis progression during growth – when time is of the essence!
Do Schroth Method Exercises Work?
Yes, and it works best when Schroth Best Practice additions and improvements are incorporated. Most of the newer components of Best Practice are also Schroth-based and include extensive instruction in activities of daily living according to Schroth principles, Physiologic exercises for the sagittal plane, and 3D Made Easy exercises as well – an easier form of many of the traditional form exercises. We also add spinal mobilizations for a truly all-inclusive scoliosis program.
Dr. Kevin Lau with the grandson of Katharina Schroth,
Dr. Hans-Rudolf Weiss, an orthopaedic doctor and chiropractor.