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Scoliosis Activity Suit Interview with Dr. Mark Morningstar

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Scoliosis Activity Suit interview with creator Dr. Mark Morningstar

You say the Scoliosis Activity Suit and not a scoliosis brace.  How is it different than a scoliosis brace?

A scoliosis brace is typically designed to act as a physical barrier on the spine, thus providing a type of passive, forced spine correction. While this concept has merit, the literature on rigid bracing has been rather conflicting, and varies widely according to the type of brace and the skill level of the orthotist making the scoliosis brace.

On the other hand, the Scoliosis Activity Suit provides a neurological stimulus to which specific adaptive postural reflexes and muscular stretch reflexes are activated. In other words, the Scoliosis Activity Suit causes the brain and spinal cord to recognize the abnormal alignment of the head, torso, and pelvis in relation to one another in a vertical plane, thereby causing automated reflexive compensations to immediately improve one’s posture and scoliosis. I call it an activity suit because of this function. Bracing does not accomplish this task. Also, scoliosis bracing is typically worn 18-23 hours per day. The Scoliosis Activity Suit is typically recommended up to a maximum of 6 hours per day, which I hope spares the patient from the emotional impact that bracing often causes.

How does the Scoliosis Activity Suit work?

The Scoliosis Activity Suit provides a rotational stimulus to which the body must accommodate and react. Since scoliosis is primarily a three-dimensional, rotational displacement of the spine, my goal was to create a rotational force to which the body can “unwind” itself in a manner of speaking.

The Scoliosis Activity Suit is composed of four primary pieces. These pieces can be individually configured for each patient and his or her curve type and location. It is designed to be used in concert with an neuromuscular re-education based scoliosis rehabilitation program.

What is the “ideal” scoliosis patients for the Scoliosis Activity Suit?

There are three specific types of patients who are typical candidates for the Scoliosis Activity Suit. The first type of patient is one with juvenile/adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. The premise for this group is to identify higher genetic risk patients and provide a therapy that promotes correct postural control and torso stability relative to gravity, until the patient reaches skeletal maturity.

The next type of patient is the one who has a moderate to severe scoliosis, but has opted against surgery, and perhaps too severe for rigid bracing to help. In this case, if the patient has elected to avoid surgery, we combine the Scoliosis Activity Suit with a higher intensity rehabilitation program to help the patient remain healthy and functional in day-to-day activities, with the goal of improved aesthetics and quality of life.

The third type of patient is the one who is either going through or just finished menopause. The hormone changes in menopause can trigger changes on bone density and muscular strength. It is during this time that many women develop a de Novo scoliosis, or degenerative scoliosis, as a result of these hormone changes. They may also have had a minor scoliosis since childhood that rapidly progressed during menopause, and has since become very pain expressive. Most adults with scoliosis seek treatment due to chronic pain, and the Scoliosis Activity Suit often helps these patients maintain their normal daily activities, while working towards modest reductions in their scoliosis for better long-term prognosis.

How is it different from the Spine Corporation (Spine Cor) Brace?

The SpineCor brace is just that, a scoliosis brace. Of course, it is different from rigid bracing in that it allows better flexibility and mobility, and is often referred to as a dynamic brace. The SpineCor brace is still beased upon a forced correction principle. The patient is placed into an artificially corrected posture and then the SpineCor is fitted to the patient to maintain that artificially corrected posture.

The Scoliosis Activity Suit is not based upon forced correction. Rather, it triggers reflexive autocorrection by inducing a exaggeration of the patient’s scoliosis, whereby the nervous system reacts by restoring normal alignment in the vertical plane by counter-rotating against the Scoliosis Activity Suit. Therefore, the Scoliosis Activity Suit does not force the spine into a corrected position, which is how all other bracing works, rigid or dynamic. It instead causes the body to make its own reflexive self-correction, given the correct rotational stimulus created by the Scoliosis Activity Suit.

What made you see the need to invent the Scoliosis Activity Suit in the first place?

So many people are beginning to question the value and efficacy of surgery that it became a necessity to develop something that could help people who had nowhere else to turn. Even when rigid bracing works like it was intended, the compliance rate for patients wearing a rigid brace is quite low. It also often creates a negative psychological impact, especially in today’s environment where bullying and intimidation are such big problems. Children don’t want to use treatments that make them stand out among their peers. The Scoliosis Activity Suit is something that all scoliosis patients can do in their own homes. Most children who have a Scoliosis Activity Suit wear it at home, after school.  And because it is thin enough, it can be effectively concealed under clothing when wearing it longer becomes a necessity.

To prove my point, I was recently walking out of the local grocery store and saw one of my patients who has a Scoliosis Activity Suit. I walked by and said hello. She turned around and said, “Dr. Morningstar, see, I have my Suit on.” I didn’t even notice until I stared at her for about 10 seconds. That was the first time that it really dawned on me that if I can get this teenager to wear it out in public, then I should be able to get more children to wear it and conceal it like she did.

Finally, the outdated, archaic concept of ‘wait and see’ really bothers me. When a child has a small, mild scoliosis, we have an opportunity to save that child from a lifetime of what I call ‘aesthetic depression’, chronic pain, and potential scoliosis surgery. The Scoliosis Activity Suit gives parents who are unsettled about ‘watching and waiting’ an option to do something about their child’s scoliosis without waiting for it to become so severe that it causes permanent postural deformity. 

Why is it called 'Scoliosis Activity Suit'?

Kids don’t want another ‘scoliosis’ anything. I could have called it a ScoliSuit, or something similar. Children must be carefully communicated with. If they find a treatment ‘cool’, they’re probably less likely to be resistant to it. It’s much ‘cooler’  to wear a "Scoliosis Activity Suit" than a ScoliSuit.  This Suit creates a force that is entirely rotational, compared to a lateral or three-dimensional ‘push’ that bracing produces. 

What research is available?

We have a one-year study that will be published later this year on the Scoliosis Activity Suit. Patient wearing the Suit for one-year, in conjunction with performing specific scoliosis rehabilitation procedures at home experienced the following improvements:

 

12-month data: (avg 36 hours out of the Suit)

Females: 8-17 y/ o achieved reductions of 18-54%

Males: 11-17 y/o achieved reductions of 20-42%

Females: 46-81 y /o achieved reductions of 10-26%

There is a second study currently in review. We will find out soon whether it will be accepted for publication.

 

What does it take to become a Scoliosis Activity Suit-certified physician?

Because of the complexity of fitting a Scoliosis Activity Suit as well as the extensive potential configurations that may be employed, physicians must participate in an extensive certification course, and fit their own patients with the help of a Scoliosis Activity Suit instructor. Once the instructor feels comfortable with the physician’s skill level, he or she will be conferred the Scoliosis Activity Suit certification.

Where can I find a local physician using it?

Physicians who are currently certified are being uploaded to the Scoliosis Activity Suit website, http://www.thetornadosuit.com. There people can look up the physician closest to them. The site will provide each certified doctors contact information.

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