As a teenager, she spent five years in back braces trying to reduce her scoliosis curve. But as soon as the brace came off, the curve started progressing again – growing 10 degrees over the next six years.

By age 25, her curve measured 47 degrees — just shy of the high-risk waterline for rapid progression. To prevent the need for surgery, doctors put her on a regimen of scoliosis exercises and measured her progress over the next several months.

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Since the times of the Ancient Greeks, scoliosis has been viewed primarily as a spinal deformity. Because it has been viewed this way for so long, all of the treatments that have ever been created for it are all orthopedic, mechanical, or physical in nature. These efforts are, metaphorically, attempts to put the “toothpaste back into the tube” rather than proactive early stage identification of at-risk patients and preventative intervention.

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In today’s world of insurance-driven health care, face time with the actual doctor is becoming more and more limited, and time to ask questions ⁠— let alone get an answer ⁠— is practically non-existent. It is no wonder the idiopathic scoliosis condition is wrought with confusion and misinformation. While the list of misconceptions regarding idiopathic scoliosis is likely endless, below are six the ScoliSMART doctors feel are important enough to be called out.

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Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by a severe decline in bone mineral density.

Osteoporosis affects nearly 1 in 4 adult women over age 65, and 1 in 20 men over age 65 (source). If left untreated, people with osteoporosis can suffer life-threatening spine or hip fractures. For example, the average life expectancy after a senior citizen suffers a hip fracture is 12 months, whether they have surgery to repair/replace the hip or not. Spine and hip fractures can be very painful and debilitating.

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A sideways-curving spine is the most troubling aspect of scoliosis, but it is not the real problem. To figure out what actually causes scoliosis, scientists must look beyond the curve.

We now know that spinal curvature stems from a miscommunication between the brain and muscles that support the spine. A child’s postural control centers fail to tell the muscles how to properly respond to gravity, so instead of growing straight the spine becomes curved. But why aren’t those messages being sent? More and more clinical data is pointing toward specific genomic functional variant patterns, which affect neurotransmitter and hormone production/metabolism.

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After years of scoliosis treatment, 16-year-old Rachel Rabkin Peachman’s curves had stabilized and her spine had fully grown. At 45 degrees, she had narrowly escaped surgery. Her doctor told her she was done.

But she wasn’t.

“I’ve discovered in the years since that scoliosis is not something you endure and outgrow, like pimples and puberty. Now, at the ripe age of 38, I find myself with a 55-degree upper curve, a 33-degree lower curve, consistent pain — and no standard treatment to follow.”

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Choosing to have a child is an exciting decision. But for women with scoliosis, pregnancy and childbirth are often fraught with anxiety. Many wonder if someone with scoliosis can even have a baby safely.

The reality is that risks are a natural part of pregnancy, whether you have an abnormal spine or not. But just how does the scoliosis affect the entire process, from conception to delivery? Below are answers to some of the most common questions women ask about pregnancy and scoliosis.

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When scoliosis starts causing pain, many patients find relief through stretching.

Stretching with scoliosis can help alleviate back by releasing tension in the muscles surrounding the spine. It also increases blood flow and lubrication in the joints, which helps keep the body limber.

While a normal spine moves from side to side (e.g. while walking), “people with scoliosis can bend only in one direction and are unable to access movement in the opposite direction,” says Rocky Snyder, a personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist. As you determine which side of your body lacks elasticity, you can focus your stretching on that area to help relieve discomfort, improve flexibility, and increase your range of motion.

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We often speak to prospective patients who have tried other non-surgical exercise-based treatments for scoliosis to no avail. Below, we highlight salient differences between ScoliSMART and Schroth:

Established

ScoliSMART

Developed in the 2000s.

Schroth

Developed in the 1920s in Germany. Only recently introduced to practitioners in the United States.

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Sports and scoliosis often go hand in hand. As many as 24 percent of young athletes have it.

While many parents express concern over allowing kids with scoliosis to participate in athletics, exercise is pivotal to any successful treatment plan.

  • It strengthens the core muscles that support the spine
  • It keeps the body nimble and prevents stiffness
  • It supports overall health and boosts self-esteem

Specific exercises can even stop scoliosis progression and help reduce curvature by retraining the brain to correct the spine’s posture.

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