10 Apr
Posture Perfect: The Schroth Method's Enhancement of Alignment and Performance

 Katharina Schroth created the Schroth Method in the early 1900s. She herself had adolescent-onset scoliosis and wore a brace throughout her teen years. When she saw a half-deflated balloon in her backyard and noted the similarity in her own rib cage, she imagined that if her lungs were to inflate as the balloon might inflate, this would restore her body symmetry and postal alignment. She began to treat scoliosis, kyphosis and all spinal deformities through physiotherapy scoliosis specific exercises (PSSE), focusing on restoring each vertebra’s three planes of motion, elongation and orthopedic breathing. The Schroth Method approach to treatment results in improving muscle strength, reducing pain, and restoring ones best postural alignment. This article explores how the Schroth Method achieves these results. 

What is the Schroth Method?   The Schroth Method is a conservative treatment approach based on using postural corrections and specific exercises to manage and decrease all postural malalignments. Unlike traditional physical therapy that focuses on strengthening the long lever muscles of the body lying on top of the rib cage and thorax, the Schroth Method of physical therapy takes a comprehensive 3D approach addressing the deepest small muscles under the rib cage connected to our vertebra to correct postural abnormalities. Patients are taught to first understand their unique Sagittal plane (front to back) alignment. Gravity brings our body forward which instantly and unfortunately invites the instability of the coupled motions of side bending and rotation. The Schroth method first addresses the correction of the Sagittal plane by standing upright, establishing a lumbar lordosis, or a hollow in your low back, and assuring that your head is not in front of your shoulder girdle. Once you are in your best Sagittal plane alignment, and in the most upright positioning, you have improved the stability of your spine by beginning to reverse those coupled side bending and rotation motions brought on by forward bending. The Schroth method will then progress to focus on the elongation of your spine, the de-rotation of your vertebrae, and the stabilization of your spine through sensorimotor, postural, and corrective deep breathing exercises which reduce the curves and improve the postural alignment. 

How Can the Schroth Method Help?   A spinal malalignment simply describes a condition when the spine deviates out of its normal sagittal plane postural alignment, which consists of a cervical lordosis, thoracic kyphosis, and lumbar lordosis. When a spine curves away from its normal alignment, it causes uneven weight-bearing, resulting in soft tissue strains, intervertebral disc derangements, eventual wear and wedging of the vertebrae, irritation of nerve structures, correlating muscular weakness, decreased lung capacity, spinal instability, and ultimately higher rates of pain and disability. When undergoing physical therapy with the Schroth Method, an individual performs customized positions to eliminate the three planes of motion causing the malalignment. A specific orthopedic breathing exercise is then added on to this stable corrected alignment to address the associated musculature of deep intervertebral, intercostal, diaphragmatic, and primary breathing apparatus. These deepest core muscles that are connected to our vertebrae and dictate their motion, are now able to awaken and fire in this corrected stable position. By doing this, these muscles are retrained for improved postural alignment, unloading the asymmetrical positioning, and helping to restore symmetry to all the soft tissues in the region. 

How Is the Schroth Method Different from Traditional Physical Therapy?   First, it is important to understand that when a spinal malalignment occurs, the spine moves together in coupled motions. The spine bends forward first, losing its stability; it bends sideways at an area of the spine and often will bend sideways in the opposite direction in the other areas above and below, (in order to maintain balance and keep our head centered over our shoulders); and it twists into rotation, due to the slack produced with the side bending and the wedging of the vertebral body and disc, all resulting in a downward spiral. 

Conventional physical treatment targets the spine's side-to-side curvature; not recognizing and reducing the other two planes of motion. This unfortunately will increase the remaining two planes of motion if not all resolved consecutively. When a curve is decreased in only one plane of motion, the other two planes of motion increase and are put on a stretch. This overstretches the muscles that are already overstretched on the outside of the curve, allowing the curve to worsen and progress. 

Schroth physical therapy addresses all three planes of motion simultaneously. 

The Schroth Method's fundamental principles include:   

Three-Dimensional treatment: The Schroth Method focuses on treating spinal conditions after reducing all three dimensions of motion. Each vertebra move forward and back, side to side and twist into rotation. When we see malalignments, we see a forward bending that combines with the side bending and rotation towards the same side. To reduce the curve back to its best possible alignment, we need to restore each plane of motion simultaneously. With corrected re-positioning, we apply Katharina Schroth’s Orthopedic breathing exercises with elongation. Here in this newly attained position of stability, we are able to symmetrically strengthen the biased, soft tissue structures from their formerly adapted, abnormal positioning, offering a decrease in pain and disability. 

Postural Awareness: Maintaining good posture and recognizing your body's imbalances are crucial aspects of the­ Schroth Method. The method helps individuals become mindful of their spinal asymmetries at all times. This heightened postural awareness allows for targeted exercises addressing individual needs, realigning the body. 

Breathing Techniques: Proper breathing techniques play a vital role in achieving postural correction and elongation, therefore, spinal stability. The Schroth Method teaches a unique diaphragmatic breathing and rib cage expansion exercise. These improve lung capacity, thoracic mobility, and overall spinal alignment. Controlled breathing forms an integral part of this Schroth physical therapy approach. 

Advantages of Physical Therapy with the Schroth Method:   

Pain Relief: Chronic pain and suffering are the norm among people with spinal abnormalities. Physical therapy using the Schroth Method has been demonstrated to reduce pain by treating postural abnormalities, easing strained muscles, and encouraging improved spinal alignment. 

Postural Correction: The Schroth Method enhances spinal alignment and global postural symmetry by focusing on elongation and the knowledge of how to live outside of your curve. This results in better overall postural alignment and a slower rate of curvature advancement. 

Enhanced Functionality: Patients frequently report enhanced ability to perform daily tasks, including sitting, standing, and walking, as they develop better postural awareness and muscular control. A higher quality of life is correlated with increased mobility and stability. 

Long-Term Management: Schroth physical therapy provides a non-invasive and long-lasting strategy for controlling spinal abnormalities. Patients can continue to benefit from Schroth physical therapy for an extended period if they practice living outside of their curve consistently and following the recommended strengthening exercises. 

Conclusion:   People with all spinal conditions can find hope and comfort in the Schroth Method. This unique physical therapy approach corrects the malalignment with a 3-dimmensional postural correction, orthopedic breathing exercises, and neuromuscular training to maintain this postural correction. It has the power to improve lives and overall well-being. As awareness grows, more people may benefit from the Schroth Method's personalized approach to pain relief, posture­ correction, and better functioning. Embracing innovative therapies like the Schroth Method empowers individuals to manage their spinal health and live life to the fullest.

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