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Scoliosis Massage

What Is a Scoliosis Massage and Does It Work?

Question:

My teenage daughter was recently diagnosed with scoliosis, and we’ve been looking at a number of different treatment options for her. I understand that there’s no real cure for the condition, but I want to ensure she can live the most active and pain-free life possible. I’ve read about scoliosis massage, but I’m skeptical – I thought massage treated muscles, not bones. What exactly is a scoliosis massage, and does it actually work?

Answer:

When it comes to massage therapy for scoliosis, there is a lot of conflicting information. According to the Scoliosis Research Society, massage therapy has no effectiveness as an alternative treatment for scoliosis.[1] The Society’s report concluded, after an extensive review of existing literature, that bracing and surgery are the only scientifically rational methods of treatment of scoliosis.[2]

However, it’s important to note that the Society’s report was concerned with methods (other than bracing and surgery) that could reverse or correct the curvature of the spine. Massage therapy cannot do that, nor has it been claimed that it can. However, scoliosis patients can still benefit from massage therapy. One case report published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies concluded massage therapy improved pain levels and sleep patterns of scoliosis patients, as well as reducing functional limitations.[3] And the Scoliosis Research Society itself notes that spinal orthopedists and neurosurgeons may refer scoliosis patients to massage therapists for management of their back pain.[4]

A scoliosis massage is a deep tissue massage that loosens up the muscles and connective tissues in the back. When muscles become overworked and spasm due to the curvature of the spine, scoliosis massage helps release them. Unlike a standard massage, a scoliosis massage typically isn’t relaxing and comfortable, nor is it intended to be.[5]

Scoliosis massage also complements chiropractic work. Tight muscles can pull the spine back to its previous position, rendering a chiropractic alignment ineffective. Scoliosis massage loosens those muscles and makes room for chiropractic alignment to happen.[6]

If you’re interested in scoliosis massage for your daughter, talk to the health care professionals who are treating her scoliosis. You want to make sure her massage therapy helps, rather than hinders, their work. Look for a massage therapist who is specifically trained in scoliosis massage, because they will understand the different ways scoliosis impacts the muscles in the back.

It’s worth noting that, short of a scoliosis massage, scoliosis patients can get some benefit from a regular Swedish massage as well. As a result of such a massage, your daughter might experience some reduction in pain, as well as overall feelings of well being and an improved self-image.[7]

References:

[1] Scoliosis Research Society: “Alternative Treatments for Scoliosis” http://heyclinic.com/wpdev/wp-content/uploads/Alternative_Treatments_For_Scoliosis.pdf

[2] Id.

[3] Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies: “Impact of massage therapy in the treatment of linked pathologies: Scoliosis, costovertebral dysfunction, and thoracic outlet syndrome” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1360859205001257

[4] Scoliosis Research Society: “Treatment & Coping” http://www.srs.org/patients-and-families/common-questions-and-glossary/treatment-and-coping

[5] CLEAR Scoliosis Institute: “Scoliosis Massage” https://www.clear-institute.org/blog/scoliosis-massage/

[6] Id.

[7] Western Journal of Medicine: “Massage therapies” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071543/

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