Alternative Therapies for Scoliosis Treatment
Includes information on physical therapy, osteopathic treatment, exercise and yoga
Since I found that my scoliosis improved through diet and exercise therapy (especially yoga), I've been actively seeking reports from other people for alternative scoliosis treatment ideas that did not involve braces or surgery. The first example I found was from my own physical therapist. He told me that several of his other clients have reported improvements in their spinal curvature through therapy sessions with him. This is noteworthy because he does ergonomic consulting and specializes in repetitive stress injuries, not scoliosis. Interestingly, he and the other therapists in his clinic do focus a lot on posture and body alignment, the same techniques that were popular for scoliosis treatment in the U.S. earlier in the century.
The November, 1999 issue of Redbook magazine contains another example of someone who had success with an alternative treatment for scoliosis. In an interview with Laura Dern, the actress is quoted as saying that she had an extreme S curve in her spine when she was 9. She told the interviewer that all of the doctors and specialists she went to advised her and her mom that she had six months before she would have to be put in a brace from the neck down. According to Ms. Dern, they all said, "Forget it, there's no hope." Her mother refused to accept this diagnosis and took daughter to a "bunch of chiropractors and healers." Ms. Dern said the person who helped her the most was an osteopath. She is quoted in the article as stating, "My mom took me there twice a week, and within six months I was absolutely fine. I never had to wear a brace."
Martha Hawes, author of Scoliosis and the Human Spine, also reports successful treatment of spinal curvature without bracing or surgery despite dire warnings from her orthopedist regarding the need for surgery to prevent her curves from increasing. Her experience is documented in the Spring, 2002 National Scoliosis Foundation newsletter, The Spinal Connection. The article to read is "Improved Chest Expansion in Idiopathic Scoliosis After Intensive Multiple Modality Non Surgical Treatment in an Adult" by Dr. Martha C. Hawes. PhD. and William J, Brooks, DO. (To download the newsletter you need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer).
Dr. Hawes is a microbiology professor at the University of Arizona who reduced her curves using a combination of exercise-based mobilization therapies' in partnership with her osteopathic physician. She reports her thoracic curve went from from 47 to 28 degrees, and her lumbar curve from 26 to 13 degrees - all without the use of braces or surgery. You can see before and after pictures of her back in The Spinal Connection article noted above.
Dr. Hawes has written a book, inspired by her experience with spinal curvature, called Scoliosis and the Human Spine: A critical review of clinical approaches to the treatment of spinal deformity in the United States, and a proposal for change. The NSF site describes the book as " an exhaustive analysis of the peer-reviewed literature describing the history, biology, and clinical approach to treatment of spinal deformity, and includes a bibliography of more than 700 medical and scientific papers.
If your doctor has told you that you need surgery to correct your scoliosis or face dire health consequences, you might want to invest in buying this book first. It will give you some information on the dangers, potential complications and drawbacks of spinal surgery.
Another example came from the brother of a friend of mine. He is a physical therapist in New Zealand. He tells me that physical therapy is considered a medically approved scoliosis treatment option in New Zealand, and unlike the U.S., doctors there do routinely refer scoliosis patients for physical therapy. He reports that, in many cases, scoliosis "absolutely, absolutely" responds to treatment. He told me that he has had the greatest success in treating the milder curves.
More examples of scoliosis and alternative treatments are found in the book mentioned in my main scoliosis page, Backache Relief. In Chapter 14, the authors' state, "After unproductive years of seeing 'mainstream' practitioners, twenty-two of thirty-one scoliosis sufferers in this section got long-term relief by receiving treatment from an alternative practitioner." A chart on page 322 shows that of the 8 people who tried yoga, 100% reported long term relief. The authors go on to say, "There is every indication that scoliosis sufferers who give their bodies a constructive workout every day have the least pain and lead the fullest lives." They also note that the survey participants with scoliosis who regularly did at least two activities, such as swimming and yoga, had the best results.
A survey conducted years ago on the Scoliosis World web site asked readers what treatments they have found helpful. There are polls on chiropratic treatment, surgery, exercise etc. The results are very interesting, and show that there doesn't seem to be any one treatment that works for everyone all of the time. The polls also show that, contrary to common conventional medical dogma, a number of people have found benefits from alternative treatments such as exercise therapy.
For nonsurgical scoliosis treatment in Europe, you may want to check out the Katharina Schroth Clinic in Germany, I haven't been there myself, but I've read some of their papers and a lot of the treatments they do at their clinic seem to parallel the types of things I found success with in reducing my own scoliosis here in the U.S. They've published some impressive case studies with pictures of patients they have helped reduce their curves through nonsurgical treatments. You can see some of the pictures from the Schroth book here.
Finding these examples of other people with scoliosis who have been helped by exercise therapy and alternative scoliosis treatment methods has convinced me that my own experience of spinal curvature improvement without bracing or surgery was not an isolated case. I find these examples especially convincing when considered in light of the studies done in other countries that have found alternative methods of scoliosis treatment, such as exercise and posture therapy effective.
Click here for a list of popular books on osteopenia, a condition of reduced bone mass closely linked to scoliosis.
Physical exercises as a treatment for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. A systematic review. - Paper from ISICO (Italian Scientific Spine Institute), Milan, Italy.
The use of exercises in the treatment of scoliosis: an evidence-based critical review of the literature. - M Hawes, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Arizona, Tucson
Side shift exercise for idiopathic scoliosis after skeletal maturity. - Dep L of Orthopaedic Surgery, Teikyo University School of Medicine, Tokyo.
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