I understand that your patients see major improvements in their Scoliosis. Are their results permanent? Also, do their cosmetic deformities such as "rib humps" improve as well?
Yes, results can be permanent IF the patient follows through with the program to completion. For cases that are caught late, and cannot achieve a full reduction of the curve, maintenance exercises are necessary for long term stability. The straighter we can get the spine, the less long-term work is required to maintain.
Consider for comparison a patient with crooked teeth who goes to the orthodontist. The orthodontist will prescribe 2-3 years of braces, followed by several more years of retainer wear. Quite often, adults who had braces must continue use of their retainers periodically at night, or the teeth may gradual begin shifting out of alignment. A similar timeline is required for changing the alignment of the scoliotic spine. The nice thing about dental braces, is that they are strapped rather permanently to the teeth during the time of correction. Also, orthodontic correction requires little to no active effort on the side of the patient. Nobody goes to their orthotist 3-6 months after they began the braces and says, “Hey doc, I’m really worn out from wearing these braces, it’s a lot of work, I’d like to take these things off and see how the teeth are holding." That would be unrealistic, and we all know what would happen to those teeth in a very short time.
Conversely with our program, MUCH active effort is required by the patient, and we do not permanently attach a treatment device to the patient’s body. The patient’s success depends as much on the patient’s own effort as it does on the doctor’s / therapist's skill. As long as our program is approached with the a long-term mindset and a determined patient, the success rate for stabilizing or reducing scoliosis curvature is very positive.
Why would you advice patients to seek out physical therapy rather than surgery?
We actually would NOT advise scoliosis patients to seek out “physical therapy”, nor would we advise them to seek out “chiropractic” (we are DCs, Doctors of Chiropractic). Why not? Ask our physical therapist and she will probably give you the same answer. It is because neither physical therapy school, nor chiropractic school, teach chiropractors anything about stopping or reducing a scoliosis with long term success. The process of getting a scoliotic spine to grow straighter must be studies in a post-graduate training program. In the case of physical therapists in the US, the Barcelona Schroth School is the best place to learn how to properly manage scoliosis. In the case of Chiropractic, we received training from a variety of seminars that specialized in scoliosis, and gleaned the best from all of them. Finally, we focus more than 90% of our case work and time on scoliosis, which has helped us tremendously in understanding how to manage the problem. So in short, we would only recommend therapists or doctors who have had specialized training in scoliosis, and who make scoliosis care their primary if not only focus.
Check in next week for more Non-Surgical Scoliosis Questions Answered - Part II!