How We Can Help With Your Scoliosis


Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy provides AZ sports medicine and physical therapy to patients all over the Valley. We believe in the need for an individualized, hands-on approach to ensure our patients receive the best care possible. We offer a free assessment of your needs, which you can schedule online here today. For more information about AZ sports medicine and different physical therapy techniques, follow our blog!

Kristy Hartsock, PTA, is a dedicated member of the Foothills staff who utilizes her knowledge of sports medicine both in her work and at home with her four athletic boys. She is here today to talk about scoliosis and how physical therapy could help people of all ages with the condition achieve more active, pain-free lives.

Samuel, who is just 13 years old, was in constant distress due to the muscular restrictions and pain caused by scoliosis. Samuel is active in basketball, baseball and football, yet is limited by a constant tightness in his thoracic (upper to middle) spine. He was determined to remain active and achieve his athletic goals, so he turned to Foothills Sports Medicine in Litchfield Park for help.

Scoliosis is a condition in which an individual has an abnormal ‘c’ or ‘s’ shaped curve in their spine, which alters their overall upper-body alignment and posture. There are several types of scoliosis, including congenital, degenerative, neuromuscular, and idiopathic. Congenital scoliosis is present at birth, and is brought on by a deformity of the spine that develops in the womb. The cause of this is unknown. Degenerative scoliosis is caused by degeneration of the facet joints (the joints that allow your back to bend and twist) as a result of aging, and typically occurs in individuals who are 65 and older. Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by an abnormal muscular nerve pathway in the body and is found in individuals with neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy or Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Samuel has idiopathic scoliosis, which typically develops in adolescents. The cause for this type of scoliosis is unknown.

Treatment of scoliosis is a team approach. It is managed best with the help of family, primary care physicians, surgeons, orthopedic doctors, and physical therapists working together to develop a plan of care for each individual patient. Your physical therapist at Foothills Sports Medicine will be able to evaluate the condition and determine how to restore and maintain function to allow patients to meet their greatest physical potential.

To treat scoliosis, your physical therapist will develop a plan of care specific to your individual needs. This may include, but is not limited to: hands-on manual therapy, range of motion exercises, functional movement training exercises, stretching, and a range of modalities. During this process, the therapist will closely monitor progress and determine when the plan of care requires modifications to ensure best results for the patient. At Foothills, we use our hands to guide and retrain movement patterns of joints and muscles that have been restricted by scoliosis.

In Samuel’s case, he developed a muscular imbalance as a result of the abnormal position of the spine. Scoliosis causes muscular imbalances, meaning the muscles on the involved side are being overworked and restricted, while the muscles on the uninvolved side are weakened by the changed position of the spine. This imbalance can be improved by strengthening the weaker muscles and inhibiting use of the overworked muscles.

Many patients with scoliosis, especially pediatric patients like Samuel, will benefit from modalities such as Kinesio tape to retrain the muscles affected by the abnormal position of the spine. Kinesio tape should be applied by a trained medical professional, as the technique used to apply is complex and requires extensive training. Kinesio tape can be applied to facilitate use of weaker muscles and inhibit muscles that are over-working. The Kinesio tape will continue to provide sensory input through the skin during the two or three days a patient is not in therapy, so messages are constantly being sent to the brain that retrain your body. This is one of the many tools used to improve Samuel’s movement patterns.

When movement restrictions are present, your physical therapist will implement range of motion exercises to help aid normal movement of the body. Foothills PTs are trained in assessing normal movement patterns, and will determine what exercises are best suited to retrain the body and achieve optimal results.

Samuel was discharged from therapy with results that allowed him to play active sports without pain. He was provided with a home exercise program to ensure he could maintain this newly gained motion, and he can now continue working towards his own personal goals.


Kristine Hartsock

PTA | Litchfield Park Location