The Schroth Method - A Conservative, Non-surgical Treatment Option for Scoliosis
The problem - scoliosis
In April of 2010, my daughter was diagnosed with scoliosis, a condition involving abnormal curvature of the spine. In scoliosis, the spine curves from side to side, and there is usually spinal twisting or rotation. A normal amount of sitting or standing can be very painful for the scoliosis sufferer. There can also be issues with uneven shoulders and/or hips, as well as "humps" caused by the twisting of the rib cage to abnormal positions.
In the U.S., the standard treatment options for scoliosis are bracing and, if the curves are 40 degrees or greater, surgery. The surgery involves straightening the spine to some degree, and then fusing the vertebrae together with bone grafts. Metal rods and screws are also inserted along the spine to offer support until the fusion takes place. Since this is major surgery, the rods are generally not removed after fusion has taken place.
My daughter's original diagnosis was a 40 degree lumbar curve. Because she was 14 and near the end of her growth phase, the doctor did not recommend bracing, and suggested checking her again in 6 months to see if the curve progressed. He felt that she would eventually need surgery, and offered no other recommendations for treatment.
I began to search for a more conservative, non-surgical alternative for treatment. There was plenty of information on the Internet to cull through, and it was difficult to separate legitimate options from ineffective treatments, or even just plain quackery. I finally found something called the Schroth Method, and felt that out of everything out there, it offered the best hope for us to avoid surgery and relieve the back pain of scoliosis.
History of the Schroth Method
The Schroth Method is a physiotherapeutic system of exercises for scoliosis, which was developed years ago in Germany. The initial program was developed by Katharina Schroth (1894-1985), a scoliosis sufferer herself. She spent many hours in front of a mirror, observing the changes in her torso due to various postural corrections and breathing techniques.
She had been trained as a teacher, and was able to share her system of exercises with other scoliosis patients, and eventually opened a clinic in Germany. Her daughter, Christa Lehnert-Schroth, a trained physical therapist, worked with her on further developing her exercises. Although no longer owned by the Schroth family, the Asklepios Katharina-Schroth Klinic today serves over 1000 patients annually. This treatment is covered by the German health insurance system, and German orthopedic doctors routinely refer scoliosis patients there for non-surgical treatment.
One of the basic premises of the Schroth system is that, regardless of the cause of the scoliosis, the muscle groups which support the spine have become asymmetrical. Some of the muscles are longer than they should be, some are shorter. The resulting imbalances keep the scoliotic spine pulled into abnormal curves and twists, and unless corrective actions are taken, the problem builds upon itself.
The Schroth Method first assesses and classifies the patient's curve. Following this, the patient is taught exercises that are specific to his or her curve. The exercises are designed to help the patient counter the effects of gravity and uneven muscle pull on their spines. They learn to correct their postural positions and perform strengthening and breathing exercises. The patient will perform frequent repetitions of the exercises over the course of their lifetimes for optimal benefits.
Today, many patients also use bracing in conjunction with Schroth therapy. The Rigo Cheneau brace is specifically designed to work well with the Schroth Method.
How to Find a Schroth Certified Therapist
When we decided that we wanted to pursue Schroth therapy, I had to find a therapy location that would work for us. Of course, there was the original clinic in Germany, which would have been a pretty expensive option. There is also a well-known clinic in Spain, run by Dr. Manuel Rigo - still a pretty expensive option just with the travel costs alone, but if you had the money and time, these would be the two premier locations in the world to get treatment.
Looking for something closer to home, I found the Scoliosis Rehab Clinic, with two locations in Wisconsin and Arizona. Started by two women whose own children had scoliosis, this clinic's therapists were trained by Dr. Rigo in Spain. They offer an intensive treatment program at their facilities. Still not sure that this was what I wanted, I discovered that Scoliosis Rehab had begun a Schroth certification program for physical therapists, and I was lucky to find one of their certified therapists just a few hours away from where we live. Although I didn't find a list of Scoliosis Rehab's certified therapists on their web site, it would be worth a phone call to them to see if there is someone in your area. Also, Christa Lehnert-Schroth has a web site with a list of certified therapists - I don't know how often it is updated.
We have been through two 5-day physical therapy sessions, for 2 hours each day. We came home with a customized exercise program which my daughter does 5 days a week. She is also building up her wearing time of the RSC brace. She will eventually wear it all night and maybe a little while watching TV.
My Expectations for Schroth Therapy
I don't expect Schroth therapy to cure my daughter's scoliosis. However, my goal is to help her avoid surgery on her back, keep the curves from getting worse, and reduce (and hopefully eliminate) her back pain. This is pretty much in line with claims on the Schroth Method web site:
"THE SCHROTH METHOD HELPS PATIENTS TO:
- Halt curve progression
- Reduce pain
- Increase vital capacity
- At least partly reverse abnormal curvatures
- Improve posture and appearance
- Maintain improved posture lifelong
- Avoid surgery"
So my expectations seem pretty reasonable, and hopefully the Schroth Method will help us meet our goals.
This hub is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional when deciding on treatment for scoliosis.