June is scoliosis awareness month and offers us the opportunity to talk about the benefits of the Schroth Method and what we have learned on our eleven-year involvement using and/or instructing in the method. Unfortunately, spinal surgeons almost NEVER present, and often discourage, use of the Schroth Method. However, when done properly, scoliosis specific exercise is empowering and effective.
The Schroth Method approach is based on the fact that scoliosis is a three-dimensional curvature of the spine. Scoliosis is most often diagnosed during adolescence and girls progress at a much greater rate than boys.
When a mild scoliosis is detected, proactivity offers a chance to prevent scoliosis from getting worse, or perhaps even improve mild scoliosis through use of the Schroth Method, and Scoliologic® curve-pattern specific activities of daily living (ADL’s).
If you subscribe to the adage, “knowledge is power,” then understanding the power of knowing about a particular scoliosis curve pattern, early into a diagnosis, learning how to sit, walk, stand, or lie, etc. for that curvature is powerful and can help counteract curve progression. That knowledge, and application of that knowledge, can dramatically reduce an adolescents chances for progression of idiopathic scoliosis.
Adding Schroth exercises when scoliosis is moderate has kept some adolescents who learn, and practice, from having to endure bracing and may improve scoliosis without bracing. For others, who are braced, Schroth exercises contribute, or are likely responsible for to dramatically improved outcomes for scoliosis. For others, Schroth has helped prevent scoliosis surgery!
Clues of scoliosis:
- Unlevel shoulders
- unlevel hips, with or without one-sided hip prominence
- shoulder asymmetry
- head not in alignment with pelvis
- trunk asymmetry when bending forward
- head tilts off center
What to do if you suspect scoliosis:
- Have a screening by a pediatrician, family physician, chiropractor, or school nurse using a scoliometer.
- If the scoliometer reading is above 5º (some medical professionals use 7º, we’d err on the side of caution and use 5º, it’s awareness – remember?), get a full scoliosis x-ray series. Images should be of the full spine, standing – two views: one from the back (PA), and one from the side (sagittal).
- Have the x-rays measured for Cobb angles by a radiologist. Request the report and get a copy of the films, or disk, for your records. A 10º Cobb angle, or more, indicates a mild scoliosis.
Here’s the kicker: the most common advice for a mild scoliosis is watch and wait (for) bracing (and/or) surgery. If you are told ‘watch and wait,’ you have a decision to make: to ‘watch and wait,’ or ‘ignore’ and be proactive.You can guess where this is going. Our tag line is, “NOT WAIT AND SEE,” for a reason. That reason: we hear parents express regret, or hear stories of regret, regularly, about listening to that one particular piece of advice. Of learning of her daughter’s progression, one patient’s mom – an M.D. – recently told me, “My profession failed me!”
As an advocate for the proactive management of scoliosis, sooner rather than later, I absolutely, wholeheartedly, endorse and support scoliosis awareness month. I know, however, only too well, not all of us are fortunate enough to have our children diagnosed during the mild phase. That is one reason why this topic has become my soap box, to advise others who can, to act on behalf of their child, if possible.
It occurred to me there is an irony in the message of scoliosis awareness. Why? Because when, and if, a scoliosis is detected in the mild phase, families so often receive ‘watch and wait’ as advice. What’s the point of being aware when you are told, ‘do nothing,’ for a condition that can progress rapidly during a growth spurt, and your child is an adolescent?
If ‘do nothing’ doesn’t work out for your child, the next step is usually a recommendation to spend adolescence constrained by a brace – for all, or part, of the day or night, or WORSE, spinal fusion surgery. No parent wants that. The wisdom teeth extraction appointment I recently attended with my son was frightening enough; I can’t imagine turning my pre-teen or teen over to a spinal surgeon for a fusion – of who knows how many levels?
Here’s another problem with ‘do nothing.’ Scoliosis doesn’t always just creep up degree by degree. Sometimes it advances with a vengeance! An additional reason why, in my opinion, ‘watch and wait’ isn’t a smart plan. My frustration builds with each additional story of ‘watch and wait’ gone wrong. Parents are experiencing fears, concerns and frustrations, when in many cases it doesn’t have to be that way. An effective, proactive plan may help your child.
Preaching awareness without offering information about the existence of a viable solution is, at best, disingenuous. Parents, and the adolescent involved, must be informed about a chance to help themselves. The Scoliologic® program and the Schroth Method offers that chance. When a responsible adult knows what to do upon detecting scoliosis, that’s when awareness is truly a good thing.