5 Critical Questions to Ask Before You Get Scoliosis Treatment
Get the Best Scoliosis Care for You
For most of us, PAIN is the big equalizer. It can hit us at any age, sex, culture or religion. If you’re lucky, you might have a “regular” therapist in your resource bucket but most of us don’t pay any attention as to where to get care until we NEED it. Then, either due to circumstance or convenience, we make quick decisions that can end with painful “Trial or Error” outcomes. Here are 5 critical questions to ask before you make any important decisions about the care of your body.
1. Is the treatment appropriate and necessary? Do I need surgery or just more pain meds … or maybe something totally different?
In our society, we are constantly seeking the “quick fix”. Whether that is a quick adjustment for your neck pain, or an injection to “take care of” that shoulder ache. We think we don’t have time for conservative treatment and are always looking to take the short cuts. The answer to needing more pain medication is almost always a “NO”. Our bodies are amazing at healing themselves, given the right environment. When we treat a problem with pain medications and nothing else, we are not getting to the actual problem, and will never have a lasting result. When looking for a solution to your pain or wanting to reduce/stop your curve progression, make sure you are not jumping up the ladder to something that may not be necessary or appropriate. Along with that, make sure you consult with knowledgeable and skilled professionals that are uniquely educated in scoliosis conditions that can help you decide what is appropriate and necessary.
2. Does this solution get at the Root Problem or just treat the Symptoms?
This goes along with number one. When looking for a treatment solution, make sure it is addressing the underlying problem which is usually the curve, not the peripheral location that is often where the pain is being felt.
For example, treating shoulder pain that is stopping you from exercising with a cortisone injection may not be getting at the underlying problem of a compensatory curve coming from the neck or a primary curve that is weakening your shoulder blade. A cortisone injection just reduces the inflammation and swelling and can make it feel better, but why is it inflamed and swollen in the first place? There are many factors that can influence pain such as weakness, tightness, muscle imbalance, posture asymmetries etc. Research has shown us that even the most stable curve can progress 0.5 to 1 degree per year so if those underlying issues are not addressed in all 3 planes of movement (most therapies only address problems in 2 planes), how do we expect to solve them?
Make sure you are working with someone who understands not just your body’s anatomy, but the mechanics of the scoliotic spine and how to address the REAL cause without causing more damage. Understanding body asymmetry as well as how to educate you on adjustments to your sleeping, sitting, standing and walking will give you the most complete picture of how to improve your curve and stop its progression.
3. What are YOU willing to do to fix your problem? Are you ready to commit the time it will take to get long-term results?
There are many places out there advertising they will “fix” your scoliosis, or “cure” your other issues. In most cases, unfortunately, there may not be a quick fix, or an easy road. The most successful patients I see are those who take control of their own health, and faithfully do their prescribed Schroth exercises and other functional strategies at home to reduce the impact of their curve on a daily basis. I am not saying it is easy to do this, but it is the most effective way to achieve lasting results. No matter how you look at it, Scoliosis is progressive so the sooner you learn how to adapt to it, the stronger you will be.
How can we expect to fix a problem that has developed over weeks, months, or years, with something passive that does not address the real issues? If weakness of the core and inactivity have caused back pain to get worse, how can we expect an injection to solve the problem? It takes work to strengthen muscles. It takes consistency to change poor posture. It takes stretching and probably some manual therapy to reduce tightness and lack of mobility.
One of my main specialties, scoliosis, is a perfect example of this. Scoliosis develops over months, years, or even decades, and our bodies adapt and compensate for it. In order to change the scoliosis posture and cause lasting benefit, it takes a lot of work and consistent practice to achieve long-lasting muscle memory. Everything else in life takes work, so why not our health? If you are ready to take control of your health and are willing to put in the time and effort it will take, then you are ready to get results.
4. Ask who you will see and how much time will be spent with you
It seems like time spent with patients is becoming shorter and shorter these days. In many practices longer wait times and less time with the physician are just facts of life. It is not uncommon to hear about patients only seeing the doctor for 5 minutes. Physical Therapists and Chiropractors are not immune to this problem. Many practices see more patients for shorter time and utilize techs and aides more to treat the patients to meet productivity and revenue quotas. This is in part driven by the complexities of our ineffective insurance system. Medical professionals are being paid less and less by insurance companies resulting in the need to see more patients in the same amount of time in order to keep their doors open. The sad result for our patients is often overcrowded practices where you don’t actually see the same therapist each time or you have to share their attention with 1-2 other patients. The solution is to find a practice that puts your needs first and doesn’t push you off to staff who lack the skills to truly progress your treatment.
5. Are the professionals You Are seeking skilled and certified in scoliosis treatment methods? How often do they treat these conditions?
It makes sense that if you need back surgery, you would go to a surgeon who does surgery on the spine and not one who does dermatology. The same goes for Physical Therapy. Specializing in specific areas allows us to stay up on current techniques and then provide those specialized treatments to our patients. The more specific the problem, the more specialized the therapist should be. The best treatments in the research right now are specialized training in scoliosis-specific therapeutic exercise certifications including ISST Schroth, Barcelona-Schroth, SEAS, Lyon Method and a few other schools that are rarely found in the US. You can often find out who is certified in your area by going to their specific websites as well.
Most Physical Therapists in outpatient practice have enough understanding of common orthopedic problems that, if you ask, of course they will tell you they CAN treat scoliosis but do you really want to trust someone who doesn’t specialize in this area, and might only see 1-2 scoliosis patients a year, with your spine?
This realization hit me the hardest when I started to treat spinal deformities. I had received my McKenzie and NAIOMT certifications and had been treating spine for over 15 years with good success. I would never have turned down a patient because I’ve always wanted to help as many people as possible. Prior to starting ScolioAustin, I decided to get more education and become certified in the ISST and BSPTS Schroth Methods to improve my scoliosis treatment techniques.
As I sat through those courses, I realized the way I had been treating patients with spinal deformities (scoliosis, kyphosis, degenerative curves, etc) was definitely not “specialized”, and this now made sense to how few scoliosis patients I actually helped to truly resolve not only their pain but their underlying curve. Going forward, I made a commitment to always bring the BEST treatment techniques that I could to my patients and this prompted me to open ScolioAustin and dedicate myself to solely treating spinal deformity conditions. After all, who do you want doing your knee surgery? Someone who has done 5-6 or someone who has done hundreds! Make sure the professionals you are seeking out to help you with YOUR unique problem are skilled in scoliosis and have experience with it. It makes a HUGE difference.
Asking the 5 questions above will help you save time and avoid trial and error in finding the right solution to your spine condition. As more patients become consumers and take an active role in their health, we will hopefully see changes in the quality of healthcare as a whole but, until then, buyer beware and be informed!