Surface electrical muscle stimulation has been shown to be effective in reversing or arresting progression of spinal curvatures in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis. Brown et al (1984) reported the findings of a multicenter study on the use of night-time lateral electrical surface stimulation (LESS) for the treatment of juvenile or adolescent idiopathic scoliotics (484 girls and 64 boys, mean ages of 12.8 and 13.9 years, respectively). Only individuals with rapidly progressing scoliosis and at least 1 year of growth remaining were selected for this trial. The mean treatment time was 12 months, and the longest follow-up was 51 months. During the initial 6 months of therapy, a pre-treatment curvature progression rate of 1 degree/month was reversed to a reduction rate of 0.5 degree/month. Overall, 395 (72 %) patients had either reduced or stabilized their scoliosis. Seventy-one (13 %) patients had experienced temporary progression with subsequent
stabilization and treatment continuation, while 82 (15 %) patients dropped out because of progression of their conditions. The major problem with LESS was skin irritation. The authors concluded that LESS treatment is a viable alternative to bracing for patients with idiopathic scoliosis.
Dutro and Keene (1985) performed a literature review on surface electrical muscle stimulation in the treatment of progressive adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Patient selection criteria for studies reviewed were as follows: (i) Cobb angle of 25 to 45 degrees as indicated by radiographic studies, (ii) documented history of progression, (iii) minimum of 50 % correction on forced lateral bending, and (iv) minimum of 1 year of bone growth remaining. The authors concluded that electro-muscular stimulation is equally effective as bracing in treating progressive adolescent idiopathic scoliosis -- progression was arrested in 60 to 84 % of treated curves. For juvenile scoliosis, if treatment begins early enough and progression is not too severe, a curve cannot only be arrested, but reversed. Surface electro-muscular stimulation can also be employed to halt progression while patients await surgery.