When you or your child has been diagnosed with scoliosis, the options can seem painfully limited. Patients who are unwilling to accept the typical solutions—bracing, surgery or “wait and see”—often struggle to find an alternative treatment that stops scoliosis progression without permanently damaging the spine.
Being diagnosed – or having a child who is diagnosed – with idiopathic scoliosis can be a disconcerting, even scary, experience. After the diagnosis, you’ll be faced with lots of questions, and you’ll be uncertain about the future. What steps should you take? What steps should you avoid?
1) Find a Team You Can Trust
Though a GP or family doctor is important, for a specific medical condition like scoliosis, you’re going to want to see a specialist. To ensure that you can properly manage your or your child’s scoliosis, you want doctors who have spent their careers devoted to spinal health, who are up on the most recent research, and who are committed to helping you develop a plan that is specific to you and your condition. No two curves are alike, and your treatment plan should attest to that. The right doctor will help you realize that plan – so take your time to make sure you find the right doctor.
Finding the right scoliosis treatment can be a long and frustrating journey. First you get the diagnosis and all the overwhelming emotions that come with it. Then you’re presented with the potential treatment options—usually bracing, surgery or “wait and see.” Finally there’s the endless digging, online or at the library, to find a better alternative.
Treating scoliosis often feels like a race against an opponent with a head start. Once curves start progressing, parents and doctors can easily get caught up in reacting to the spine’s changes without ever managing to get ahead of the curve.
Unfortunately, scoliosis treatment for kids tends revolves around a single-minded focus—preventing curve progression—without full consideration for the child’s long-term quality of life. While traditional treatments can achieve some initial curve reduction, over the course of a lifetime they can also cause significant harm. Bracing, for example, might seem like the best course of action now, when your most pressing concern is to avoid reaching the surgical threshold, but what about 25 years from now? Or 50 years?
If your child has just been diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, you’re probably trying to figure out what to do next. This decision is probably made more difficult by the fact that you’re probably still trying to separate scoliosis fact from fiction – and unfortunately, your doctor might not be up to date on all the current realities about scoliosis. There are a series of myths about scoliosis, and they’re often used by doctors to justify expensive, invasive spinal fusion surgery, even though it might not be the best option for your child.
We all remember the shock, horror, and complete disbelief of the tragic events that took place in the United States on September 11, 2001. Most of us simply couldn’t wrap our collective heads around the very idea or concept that people would hijack jet planes and convert them into 600 mph weapons of mass destruction. Immediately, fingers were pointed and blamed assigned to the various intelligence agencies whom missed opportunity after opportunity to prevent the attacks, yet failed to do so. Years later the “9/11 report” concluded the biggest failure with in the intelligence community was simply “a failure of imagination.” The intel analysists had simple become so complacent they couldn’t even imagine a “low tech” threat causing so much harm.
Time and time again, parents sit across from me in my office describing the gut wrenching experience they endured during their child’s first brace fitting. Watching their child melt down in tears, complain about not being able to breath, and seeing the panic in their eyes when the doctor tells them they have to wear it 23 hours a day for the next 2-3 years. I also feel a sense of how disturbed these parents felt at that very moment, because they almost always seem to be looking straight through me as they tell the story.
They call him Lightning Bolt.
At age 20, he bolted through New York to set a world record—running the 100-meter sprint in just 9.72 seconds. The next year he shattered his own record and won his first of nine Olympic gold medals. Now, a decade later, Usain Bolt is considered the fastest runner ever timed.
Diana Chaloux was determined not to let her childhood scoliosis stop her from becoming a fitness model. But when she started competing nationally, her spinal curve put her at a serious disadvantage.
Body symmetry is a key category in bodybuilding and figure competitions and a “major element to being successful at the sport,” she says. To compensate for her postural deviation, she began incorporating core-strengthening exercises into her routine. Building up her core through adult scoliosis exercises helped balance out her posture while supporting the rest of her training program.
Parents and patients, just like you, are struggling and stressing out over the right direction for treating their own or their child’s scoliosis condition. Given the amount of uncertainty and confusion surrounding the current treatment of scoliosis, it is certainly understandable. No one wants to make a mistake, waste financial resources, or lose precious time from work or school going down a given treatment path, only to learn it is a dead end.