Postural imbalance and vibratory sensitivity in patients with idiopathic scoliosis: implications for treatment.J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1997 Aug; 26(2):60-8.JO
Sporadic research reports of decreased proprioception and balance problems have been reported in subjects with idiopathic scoliosis, yet these sensory motor deficits have not been addressed in conservative clinical management programs. The purpose of this study was to compare both balance reactions and vibratory sensitivity (as an estimate of proprioception) in patients with idiopathic scoliosis (N = 24) and age-matched controls (N = 24). Balance was measured by the ability to pass a series of simple static and complex sensory-challenged balance tasks. Vibratory thresholds were measured with the Bio-Thesiometer at the cervical spine, wrist, and foot. Compared with age-matched controls, regardless of curve severity or spinal fusion, the subjects with idiopathic scoliosis had similar simple static balance responses when the somatosensory system was stable (with or without vision or head turning), but they were significantly more likely to fail the complex, sensory-challenged balance tasks when the somatosensory system was challenged by an unstable position of the feet, particularly when the eyes were closed. The vibratory thresholds were similar in subjects with scoliosis and their age-matched controls, but individuals with moderate to severe scoliosis (> 25 degrees) had significantly higher vibratory thresholds than those with mild curves. These findings suggest there may be problems with postural righting in patients with idiopathic scoliosis, particularly when the balance task challenges the vestibular pathways. Although vibration sensitivity did not distinguish normal healthy individuals from individuals with idiopathic scoliosis, those with more severe scoliotic curves appear to have a high threshold to vibration. These balance and vibratory differences could either be interpreted as etiologic risk factors or as consequences of spinal asymmetry. In either case, given that curves can continue to progress even into the adult years, improving the ability to right the body with gravity could help maintain the balance of the spine despite structural asymmetry.