Effectiveness of scoliosis-specific exercises for alleviating adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: a systematic review

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2020 Jul 27;21(1):495. doi: 10.1186/s12891-020-03517-6.


Background: Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is the most common pediatric spinal deformity with reported complications including pain, mental health concern and respiratory dysfunction. The scoliosis-specific exercise (SSE) is prescribed throughout pubertal growth to slow progression although effects are unclear. This review aims to establish the effectiveness of SSE for alleviating AIS in terms of reducing Cobb angle, improving trunk asymmetry and quality of life (QoL). Additionally, it aims to define the effects of age, skeletal maturity, curve magnitude and exercise compliance on the outcomes of SSE.

Methods: A systematic reviewed was conducted to net SSE articles. Searched databases included PubMed, MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, Scopus, CINAHL and Google scholar. The quality of study was critically appraised according to the PEDro scale.

Results: A total of ten trials with an average PEDro score of 6.9/10 were examined in this study. Two randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and two clinical controlled trials suggested that SSE alone and with bracing or traditional exercise had clinical significance in reducing Cobb angle more than 5°. One RCT specifically implicated no comparable effects between bracing and SSE in prevention of curve progression for moderate scoliosis. There was insufficient evidence to support the positive effects of SSE on improving truck asymmetry (n = 4) and QoL (n = 3). Five studies evaluated the interaction effects of age (n = 2), skeletal maturity (n = 1) and curve magnitude (n = 2) with SSE in reducing Cobb angle yet without drawing any firm conclusions.

Conclusions: Insufficient evidence is available to prove that SSE with or without other conservative treatments can reduce Cobb angle, improve trunk balance and QoL. The interaction effects of age, skeletal maturity, curve magnitude, and exercise compliance with SSE in reducing Cobb angle are not proven. Future studies should investigate the relationship of influencing factors and SSE in treating AIS but not only testing its effectiveness.

Trial registration: INPLASY202050100 .

Keywords: Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis; Cobb angle; Quality of life; Scoliosis specific exercise; Truncal asymmetry.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Braces
  • Child
  • Exercise
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Kyphosis*
  • Scoliosis* / diagnosis
  • Scoliosis* / therapy