The use of exercises in the treatment of scoliosis: An evidence-based critical review of the literature

Martha C. Hawes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


The loss of flexibility in a spinal curvature defines it as a structural spinal deformity; a curvature sufficiently mobile to resolve with a change in posture is a non-structural or 'functional' scoliosis which is within the normal limits of movement for a human spine. It, therefore, seems logical that exercise-based therapies designed to improve and/or maintain flexibility and range of motion of the spine and thorax would be useful in the treatment of scoliosis. Recognition of the importance of maintaining flexibility of the thoracic spinal column to avoid scoliosis-associated pulmonary dysfunction made the use of exercise-based therapies a topic of clinical interest in ancient Greece. In recent years, successful prevention of polio epidemics has resulted in a stable change in patient populations such that most individuals diagnosed with scoliosis do not suffer from irreversible central nervous system compromise. As a result, realistic opportunities to examine the role of exercise in treatment of scoliosis are available for the first time in history. A growing body of evidence from independent sources is consistent with the hypothesis that exercise-based approaches can be used effectively to reverse the signs and symptoms of spinal deformity and to prevent progression in children and adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-182
Number of pages12
JournalPediatric Rehabilitation
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jul 2003


  • Manipulation
  • Physical therapy
  • Polio epidemics
  • Posture
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal deformity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Rehabilitation


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