Adults with idiopathic scoliosis improve disability after motor and cognitive rehabilitation: results of a randomised controlled trial

Eur Spine J. 2016 Oct;25(10):3120-3129. doi: 10.1007/s00586-016-4528-y. Epub 2016 Mar 25.


Purpose: To evaluate the effects of motor and cognitive rehabilitation on disability in adults with idiopathic scoliosis at lower risk of progression.

Methods: 130 adults with idiopathic scoliosis (main curve <35°) were randomly assigned to a 20-week rehabilitation programme consisting of active self-correction, task-oriented exercises and cognitive-behavioural therapy (experimental group, 65 subjects, mean age of 51.6, females 48) or general physiotherapy consisting of active and passive mobilizations, stretching, and strengthening exercises of the spinal muscles (control group, 65 subjects, mean age of 51.7, females 46). Before, at the end, and 12 months after treatment, each participant completed the Oswestry disability index (ODI) (primary outcome), the Tampa scale for kinesiophobia, the pain catastrophizing scale, a pain numerical rating scale, and the Scoliosis Research Society-22 Patient Questionnaire. Radiological (Cobb angle) and clinical deformity (angle of trunk rotation) changes were also investigated. A linear mixed model for repeated measures was used for each outcome.

Results: Significant effects of time, group, and time by group interaction were found for all outcome measures (P < 0.001). After training, the primary outcome showed a clinically significant between-group change (12 % points), which was preserved at follow-up. At follow-up, the radiological deformities showed a significant, although not clinically meaningful, between-group difference of 4° in favour of the experimental group.

Conclusion: The experimental programme was superior to general physiotherapy in reducing disability of adults with idiopathic scoliosis. Motor and cognitive rehabilitation also led to improvements in dysfunctional thoughts, pain, and quality of life. Changes were maintained for at least 1 year.

Keywords: Adult scoliosis; Cognitive–behavioural therapy; Randomised controlled trial; Self-correction; Task-oriented exercises.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Quality of Life
  • Scoliosis / rehabilitation*