After being diagnosed with scoliosis, bracing is often the next traditional treatment method recommended. Here’s a typical story that we often hear – being told by a scoliosis patient.
This is my scoliosis story…
This was my third time to the orthopedic doctor’s office. We had just been waiting and watching my curve get worse. I was hoping that he would finally do something! It was that doctor who told me I needed a back brace. After a few tears streaked down my face he handed me a box of tissues and said, “You’re being very brave, you won’t regret your decision. This is typical protocol. Just make sure you wear it as recommended”.
So I went to another specialist who measured me and fitted me into the torture device that they like to refer to as a back brace. I had to “break myself into it” by wearing it for one hour the first night, then for an extra hour the next, a few more the day after that, until I was used to wearing the brace for twenty-three hours a day. In that one hour of freedom, I was supposed to work out and shower.
I looked ridiculous in my back brace. It stuck out from my shoulders, and pushed the top half of my butt down. I couldn’t breath, could hardly walk, and had a hard time sitting down. Every time I sat down in my desk for class, I had to shimmy myself up out of it so I didn’t pinch my chest. I was incredibly self-conscience. I wore loose clothes and big sweaters with hoods to hide my hunch-looking back. This happened in high school, and it was terrible. I felt like I was walking like a robot.
I was constantly out of breath and unable to catch my breath because there was no room for my ribcage to expand and make room for my lungs. People would knock on the front of it and call me plastic-abs. I pretended not to mind, but the constant comments penetrated deep. I couldn’t sleep. I would toss and turn to no avail trying to find comfort. When it got warmer, I still wore huge sweaters to attempt to hide my back brace and would overheat.
It pinched my left sciatic nerve and I was constantly in pain. I had to quit orchestra because I couldn’t play the violin and breathe at the same time. During gym, I had to struggle to strap myself back into the back brace without the help of a parent and answer awkward questions about what on earth I was wearing. During this time of my life, I was constantly looking up different surgical procedures online to try and find an alternative solution so I wouldn’t have to wear this brace anymore.
The summer in between high school and college, my back started bothering me. I felt awkward and uncomfortable in my own body – whether attempting to do sports, sitting down, standing at work, or just plain lying down to sleep. I had a bad feeling that things were worsening, so I went back to the doctor. I heard him and some nurses whispering in the hall about my condition, as if I were some kind of odd creature, poor and condemned to a horrible fate. I cried and felt betrayed by him, and also by my own body.
My scoliosis had progressed, but he assured me that there was nothing I could do, and that the progression was slight. I started doing some additional research and found out that many times back braces end up making things worse – causing muscle atrophy and essentially ruining any kind of support I may have had on my own before the ‘treatment’.
After a year and a half of wearing the brace, the post films showed that my curvature had progressed past 40 degrees and the surgeon really started to push my mom and dad to have the surgery as soon as possible. I thought the surgery was inevitable. On that day, I discovered CLEAR Institute’s alternative treatment for scoliosis.
The Impact of Scoliosis
Scoliosis affects a minimum of 4% of the world’s overall population. If you’ve researched some of the available alternatives, you may have realized the typically suggested mainstream options are either painfully invasive, lacking in results, or both. You may be wondering if the only viable choice is to be a victim of what scoliosis will continue to do to the human body. Do scoliosis sufferers simply need to accept living with the pain and disfigurement that often relentlessly progresses? CLEAR Institute wants you to know the answer is no.
The “Observation” Phase
Once an individual has been diagnosed with scoliosis, typically no treatment is initially prescribed and no action is immediately taken until the Cobb angle has progressed to 25 degrees. At this point, bracing is typically prescribed. This period, which is often termed “watch & wait,” consists only of regular visits to an orthopedic surgeon, where full-spine x-rays are taken consistently to gauge the progress of the patient’s condition. Surprisingly enough, there are no reported cases of scoliosis being improved by observation alone. In addition, if there ever were a time when a patient could benefit most greatly from chiropractic, therapeutic exercise, or non-surgical intervention, it would undoubtedly be during the mild stages of the disease. In this phase, muscles & tissues of the body have yet to be deformed by months or even years of compensating for the abnormal twisting & bending of the spine.
Once the Cobb angle has progressed to 25 degrees, bracing is typically recommended. Research is often conflicting regarding the true effectiveness of bracing in scoliosis treatment. Some studies have shown very little difference between patients who wore the brace for the prescribed time, and those who wore it barely, if at all. Others have demonstrated patients who have been successfully stabilized for years by wearing a bracing constantly. Yet, there are also studies on patients who wore the brace for 23 hours out of every day, seven days a week, and continued to worsen. In every case, all corrective benefit is lost very quickly once the patient stops wearing the brace, and the general consensus is that bracing may prove helpful for some in halting progression, but not for others. This possible benefit must be weighed against the negative side-effects which include: pain, skin & bone problems related to the constant pressure, adverse effects on the heart & lungs, and perhaps most damaging of all, the psychological trauma that can result from having to wear a brace throughout adolescence.
Patients for whom bracing fails to prevent the progression of their scoliosis are often left with only one option- surgery. Those who are confronted with this choice may be told that having a metal rod fused to their spine will not impair their daily activities, but will reduce the rib arch & improve their cosmetic appearance. However, research has consistently shown that surgery – which primarily focuses upon the sideways bending, and does little to address the rotation of the spine (and hence the rib protrusion) – will actually cause the rib arch to worsen. Furthermore, the theory that un-fused regions of the spine become more mobile to compensate for the lack of motion at fused regions is completely incorrect. The rate of internal hardware failure is also virtually 100%. It may occur immediately after the surgery or several years later, but one or more components of the rod placed inside the body is highly likely to fail or break.
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