Scoliosis: A Race Against Growth

Treating Scoliosis in Adolescents is really just a race to control the curve while they finish growing and avoid progression.  Sometimes this takes years, and sometimes this takes months.  There aren’t many other conditions so dependent on growth.

Racing the Sun for Geodes!

(Check out the youtube video of our adventure)

A week ago, my kids and I decided to go on an adventure to find some geodes in Utah’s West Desert.  It was a Friday afternoon and my daughter had just arrived home from school.  It was 3:00 and we made the quick decision to head out.

We loaded up our digging tools and some snacks and drove out of the neighborhood.  Then I pulled up how far it is on the GPS.  Two and a half hours was the estimate!

The problem?

We were estimated to get there at 5:30 and the sunset was at 5:10!  Yeah, we would be digging in the dark.

The solution?

Just drive faster, especially on the dirt road, and make up the time.  I have a good truck and it usually handles off road really well.

So, that was my plan…Drive Fast….beat the Sunset!  We had a nice drive through the desert and were having a great time.  We passed a huge herd of antelope and saw quite a few herds of wild horses.

The best part….I was making up time!  We were going to make it.

Then, on the dash, up popped an alert.  One of the tires was loosing pressure and we were down to 26psi.  We would be ok if it just didn’t drop too fast so I kept driving.

No luck! Over the next minute, the pressure had dropped ot 15psi.  I pulled over and was forced to change my tire.  This took all the time we had made up and then some.  Also, now I didn’t have a spare tire if I were to get another flat.

To press on and dig in the dark, or play it safe and turn around?  That was the question.  Well, we decided to turn around and head home.

While I had been changing the tire, I told my kids to walk over and look at some of the wild horses.  When I finally looked back at them, they were about 30 feet away from a large herd.  We got some amazing pictures, and they had an adventure.

You may think we headed home empty handed, without geodes, but we came away with a fun adventure. We saw an amazing sunset and got to see beautiful horses up close.  Not too bad.

The Scoliosis Race

Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with scoliosis and growth!

Just like we were racing the sun to get to the geode beds, treating scoliosis is a race to control the curve while the child grows.

Usually the first part of the journey goes smoothly.  The exercises are new and my patients are more willing to do them because they see the benefits of getting stronger and improved posture.

They are consistent with wearing the brace even though they don’t like it.  Parents are helping to motivate and are engaged in the exercises specific to scoliosis and bracing compliance. The appointments with specialists help to keep it on top of mind.

The Rough Road

Then, further down the road, it gets rougher.  The newness of the exercises begins to wear off and it becomes harder to do them.  With so many other things going on in life the scoliosis specific exercises begin to take a back seat to “more important” things.

Instead of thinking of reasons and times TO wear the brace, reasons to NOT wear the brace creep in.  Soon, the 16 prescribed hours because 10 or 12 hours of real time.

These “bumps in the road”, although they may not seem significant, can cause problems.  Then, at the next x-ray appointment, we find that the curve has progressed.  We have gotten a flat tire! All the progress we had been making racing the sun has evaporated.

The hard work at the beginning of being diagnosed, which was most likely controlling the curve during growth, has been offset by the lack of commitment and consistency.

Now, the race against the sun going down, or in the case of scoliosis, the race against growth, is more difficult.  The curve has progressed and we have to work harder to control it.

The biggest difference with my analogy of our geode trek is that you can’t just change the tire and head home.  I guess you could just give up and throw the brace away, but why not redouble our efforts and really make a difference.

With scoliosis progression being so time sensitive with growth, it definitely presents some unique challenges.  I feel like the key, however, is to focus on consistency.  The more consistent we are with bracing (if you have a brace) and with scoliosis specific exercise, the better the result.

Get Support

If you or someone you care about are currently in this race against the sun….or growth, know there are many out there just like you.  I see it every day in my clinic.  The patients I see that have the best results are the ones that are consistent!

If you are struggling with being consistent or staying motivated, get some support.  There are many options for support and with social media it is an easy way to connect.  There are some great options.  Just looking up scoliosis support groups on Facebook gives some great options.

The Curvy Girls Support Group has been around for a long time and is a great option.  You can find more information about them at https://www.curvygirlsscoliosis.com/.

For more information on things you can do instead of just waiting to see if it will get worse, check out our scoliosis portal at https://aligntherapyutah.com/scoliosis-portal/.

As you continue your race against growth, we are here to help you have the smoothest road possible.  Things like bracing and scoliosis specific exercise can be challenging, but they are also the most effective things available.

Hang in there while you race the sun!

David Butler, Physical Therapist