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How one physical therapist overcame scoliosis and now helps children do the same

January 06, 2016

My Story

I’m Lorena, a physical therapist at Arnold Palmer Medical Center Outpatient Pediatric Rehabilitation. I was 12 years old when I was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Doctors went on to explain to my parents and me that my spine was curved, but they couldn’t explain why. As a pre-teen, I had no idea what that meant but it felt like the worst possible news. Due to the severity of my curve, they recommended a back brace that had to be worn 20 hours a day. Ugh! Just like most teens, I was struggling with the pressures of school work, extracurricular activities, and “fitting in.” Who had time for a brace? My mom (ever the proactive person) kept asking, “What else can be done?” My doctors referred me to physical therapy in the hopes of improving my posture and core strength. The combination of bracing and therapy worked. At 15 years old, after three years of bracing and therapy, I finally stopped growing and the curve had not progressed enough to require surgery. Success!

Scoliosis is a difficult diagnosis to cope with because as a teenager, you just want to feel normal. A curve of the spine certainly doesn’t change that. Having to wear a brace and keep up with exercises to avoid surgery can really challenge that sense of “normal.” Especially when there is no pain involved to remind you that something is wrong.

The Facts about Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS)

  • AIS is an abnormal curvature of the spine that appears in late childhood or adolescence and is present in 2-4 percent of people between the ages of 10-16.
  • It is more common in females than males.
  • A child who has a parent, brother, or sister with idiopathic scoliosis should be checked regularly for scoliosis by the family doctor
  • It is screened for in many schools across the state but it is not mandatory in all schools.
  • It is important to take a good look at your child's back to see if something looks different, such as one ribcage sticking out more than the other.
  • If you notice anything that looks suspicious, it is important to have your child checked by their pediatrician. They may make a referral to an orthopedic doctor.

Treatment

The typical course of treatment for AIS includes observation, bracing, and surgery. Treatment options depend on the severity of the curve, which is determined by your doctor. Bracing is a standard treatment and each brace has its own wear recommendations (night time only vs. all day, etc.).  The biggest battle most parents face is just getting a teenager to wear the brace. Just like me, many teens challenge the idea of wearing a brace for something that isn’t hurting and doesn’t seem like a big deal. The good news? There is more that can be done and I’m here to help.

 Physical Therapy and the Schroth Method

My scoliosis story didn’t end when I took off that brace. I became a pediatric physical therapist and have recently become certified in the Schroth Method of treatment for adolescents with scoliosis. This method attempts to limit the progression of the curvature by using specific strengthening and stretching techniques which are developed for each individual patient. Teens learn breathing techniques and exercises to develop proper posture and counteract the effects of scoliosis. I am very excited to be the only physical therapist in Orlando certified in this treatment intervention. Now I can help kids, just like me, overcome the challenges of scoliosis.   

Discover more resources

If you’d like to find out more about the physical therapy services offered by Arnold Palmer Medical Center Outpatient Pediatric Rehabilitation, please contact us at 321-841-5432 or visit ArnoldPalmerHospital.com.

For more information on scoliosis, check out these excellent resources:

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