You have just been diagnosed with moderate scoliosis. What to do next …

What is a moderate scoliosis?

When practitioners refer to a scoliosis as being moderate it means that your spine has one or more curves between 25 and 40 degrees. In order to be diagnosed with a moderate curve you have had X-rays taken that show your spine to be within this range.

Your X-rays

I am a great believer in patient empowerment. By this I mean that you should be the leader in your own treatment. Make sure that you have your own copy of your X-rays. I recommend having both a CD with a digital version, and a film copy of your X-rays. Don’t accept any plausible explanations or excuses for why you shouldn’t or can’t be given copies of your own X-rays.

I also recommend that you get a radiologist’s report on your X-rays. Radiologists work in hospitals and medical imaging centres, and specialize in taking and interpreting medical imaging including scoliosis X-rays. In my country of Canada there is an association of Radiologists, which maintains professional standards. You are likely to get the most expert and reliable description of your X-rays from a medical radiologist. Make sure to have a copy of your radiologist’s report with your X-rays even if there is a copy at your doctor’s, or other health-care practitioner’s, office. You never know when you may want to refer to it, and there is always that chance in a million that one copy gets lost.

Keep track of your progress

Along with your X-rays there are other useful measures of how you are doing with your scoliosis. I recommend that you do the following:

  • Have a friend or family member take photographs of you. You should have four images: front, back, left side, right side. These photographs will be most useful if your body can be clearly seen, so they are usually taken in underwear. I take photographs very irregularly – years apart actually, but you could take them more regularly if you want to keep a closer eye on your progress. Check out my first article on this blog to see my photographs.
  • Have your height measured. Have this measurement taken by your doctor next time you go for a medical checkup. This way it is taken objectively and recorded in your medical file. Once you’ve reached adulthood changes in your height may show that your spine is either curving more or straightening.
  • Have your lung capacity measured. One of the symptoms of scoliosis, especially as the curve progresses, is decreased lung capacity. Make sure you have your lung capacity measured by your doctor.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror from time to time. For many of us with scoliosis it can be uncomfortable to see ourselves in the mirror when our shape isn’t symmetrical. I’m a believer in getting used to how we look, not fretting too much about it, and using it as useful information. As you read the end of this post and read more articles on my blog you will find that I use mirrors as important aids in my scoliosis self-care.

Look after your health

Further into this post I will talk about various treatment methods for scoliosis, but before I do it’s worth talking about general health issues. Those of us with scoliosis have an extra stress on our health. For this reason it’s important to try, as far as possible, to maintain balance in our general health. Here are the obvious basics:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat healthy
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid stress
  • Have regular medical checkups

I think you understand what I’m getting at. . .

Develop a self-care plan

There are many different approaches to non-surgical treatment of scoliosis. In this article I will share my understanding of what those approaches are, and I will write future articles on this subject as I receive more information.

The Schroth Method

The Schroth Method was developed in Germany by Katharina Schroth. The Schroth Method uses physical therapy exercises to help their patients halt curve progression, reduce pain and improve their posture and appearance. The Katharina Schroth Klinic in Germany has a long list of successes in partially reversing scoliotic curves. You can learn more about the Schroth Method at www.schrothmethod.com.

The CLEAR Institute

The CLEAR Institute is an organization that aims to treat scoliosis without resorting to surgery or bracing. The CLEAR Method is primarily used by the chiropractic profession and has a somewhat different approach to Schroth. You can learn more about the CLEAR Method at www.clear-institute.org.

Schroth / CLEAR combination

In searching for Schroth or CLEAR Method practitioners in your area you may also come across scoliosis treatment that incorporates elements of both approaches.

Other Physical Therapy based approaches

Non-surgical scoliosis treatment centres, founded on physical therapy principles, tend to have a different name depending on where they are in the world. For instance the Italian centre is called ISICO, Istituto Scientifico Italiano COlonna Vertebrale. The centre in Poland is called FITS, Functional Individual Therapy of Scoliosis.

Non-Physical Therapy based approaches

Once we start to look beyond physical therapy-based treatments, the universe of non-surgical treatment becomes extremely diverse. Almost every modality that has been developed for improving our health has a theory and practice for how to treat scoliosis. I’ve broken them down into four categories here with a couple of examples for each category. I chose these examples because they were the first that came into my head – I imagine that they are names that would occur to you first as well. I apologize to practitioners of a discipline I haven’t mentioned. If you type “manual therapy” at wikipedia.org you will find a fuller list of approaches.

  • Manual Therapy e.g. Osteopathy, Structural Integration etc.
  • Exercise Regimen e.g. Yoga, Pilates etc.
  • Psycho-physical Education e.g. Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais etc.
  • Body Psychotherapy e.g. Rubenfeld Synergy, Bioenergetics etc.

Of course, many approaches have aspects that fit into more than one of these four categories. For instance, yoga teachers who offer yoga for individual scoliosis treatment may teach their patients the yoga poses (exercise regimen) and also offer hands-on treatment (manual therapy), or teaching about posture (psycho-physical education).

That concludes my post on what to do if you have been diagnosed with a moderate scoliosis. I hope you have found it useful, and I wish you success in caring for your scoliosis.

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