E15: Scoliosis Treatment at Home

E15: Scoliosis Treatment at Home Image

In Episode 15, Dr. Alex Greaux from Miami, Florida and Life Beyond the Curve host Ashley Brewer meet to discuss the topic of scoliosis treatment at home. As someone who has been in the field of scoliosis-specific chiropractic since 2007, Dr. Alex is a great person to talk about scoliosis and a noninvasive approach to treating scoliosis.

The discussion Dr. Alex has with Ashley includes recommendations for people with scoliosis and people without scoliosis. Their discussion includes:

  • Why scoliosis treatment at home without the guidance of a professional is not a good idea.
  • The importance of being mindful of posture whether you do or do not have scoliosis.
  • The type of results his patients see, in part because of their customized home exercise program.
  • What to do if you or someone you know suspects you have scoliosis.
  • How to find a scoliosis provider.

As always, Dr. Alex's passion comes through the conversation. We hope you enjoy the show!

Support the show (https://clear-institute.org/get-involved/donate-to-our-scoliosis-charity/)

Have a question or comment?

Do you have a question for Dr. Alex? Leave a comment below, and we'll make sure it gets to him. We may even cover your question on a future episode of Life Beyond the Curve.

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Episode 15 Transcript

Ashley B (00:00):

Hello, listeners. Welcome to episode 15, where we discuss the tricky topic of Scoliosis Treatment at Home. I'm your host, Ashley Brewer. For the conversation today, I'll be joined by Dr. Alex from Miami, Florida. Dr. Alex has been in chiropractic for over 15 years, and in addition to being a chiropractor, he holds a degree in physical therapy from the University of Miami. Throughout his career, Dr. Alex has had the good fortune of working with the NBA's very own Miami Heat, helping rehabilitate injured players. At his clinic, South Florida Scoliosis Center, he works with scoliosis patients on a daily basis providing a non-surgical approach to treating scoliosis, helping patients stabilize their spine and reduce their curve. Dr. Alex was willing to tackle the tough subject of scoliosis treatment at home, and I hope you enjoy our conversation. Episode 15, let's go.

Intro (01:01):

You're listening to Life Beyond the Curve, a podcast brought to you by CLEAR Scoliosis Institute. Each week, we interview experts in the industry, answer your pressing questions, and empower you to take control of your scoliosis diagnosis and live life to its fullest. Enjoy the show.

Ashley B (01:32):

All right, Dr. Alex, thank you so much for joining us today on Life Beyond the Curve, it is always great to have you on our show.

Dr. Greaux (01:43):

Thanks for having me, Ashley, love being here.

Ashley B (01:43):

Our topic for today is kind of a trick topic, because what we're going to be talking about and what I want to pick your brain on is the topic of scoliosis treatment at home. So before we jump into it, I just want your initial thoughts on this topic in general. So, what do you have to say about scoliosis treatment at home?

Dr. Greaux (02:06):

Wow! That is a big question to start with, Ashley! I'm gonna tell you, don't do it. I'm gonna tell you, don't do it. And here's why. Um, you got to be under the management and care of a doctor who knows what they're doing, right? So you can look online, you can read all kinds of things. Uh, you can find exercises, but they're not going to help. You gotta go to a doctor who knows what they're doing. Everybody wants to know, Hey, I got a scoliosis or my kid has a scoliosis. What can we do at home exercise-wise to help, right? That is really the first response. What do I do to fix it? What can I do at home? Right? That's the first thing that people ask. So what's interesting is there was a time where they would say do swimming. And I think to this point they still say do swimming, right? So that's the one home exercise that they give, but they found, actually, that it could make it worse, believe it or not. There's some research that finds high levels of intensity of swimming for extended period of time actually causes the condition to get worse. So that's why, when you say, tell me what to do at home, meh, it's not that simple, right?

Ashley B (03:24):

And I know I'm, I'm trying to trick you with that question, but I think it's important because I believe it's a question that a lot of patients with scoliosis or parents of children with scoliosis have is like, what can I do to help this condition at home? So, before we talk about the CLEAR home exercise program, which is a big part of what CLEAR-certified doctors do, let's first just talk about a general, normal human being and being mindful of their posture. Some things that they can do, um, just being mindful of their own posture, hopefully to prevent whether it's--not prevent, that, wrong word, but help their spine have the greatest chance of success of being the way that it's supposed to be.

Dr. Greaux (04:14):

Okay. So let, let's start with the basics. So first of all, um, just by population base, if you're listening to this podcast right now, you're probably an adult and you're probably sitting at a computer or you're probably sitting somewhere. So let's address the most common postural alterations that we see in everybody, not just scoliosis patients, in everybody. So what do we do all day? We are sitting usually, um, improperly, to add to boot, and then we're either on the computer all day, or driving all day, on a cell phone all day, or watching TV all day. Right? So those right there. Oh, and sleeping, we'll talk about sleeping in a second. Those right there are all the things that are so simple that people don't realize what a bad job they're doing and how it affects them. Okay? So let's start with sitting. So those of you that are sitting at a desk all day, you're working at whatever, a bank or a store, uh, you happen to be in a sitting position all day.

Dr. Greaux (05:23):

Well, is the height of the chair right for you? Is your computer monitor set up right? Are you reaching your mouse the right way? So ergonomics is a big one here, right? So you should have an HR department, uh, that should tell you, um, you could tell them, Hey, set my desk up for me. And they should be somebody that trained, that is trained to ergonomically set up your station so that you can minimize the stress on your body. Now we happen to be in the middle of COVID. So a lot of people are stuck in that they're working from home. They're not in the proper chair. They're sitting on a couch and they're slouching onto the kitchen table and they have horrible posture. How do I know this? I'm in Florida and it happens to be open. And it happens to be something that I'm getting now all the time. People are sitting on their couches now terribly. So--

Ashley B (06:10):

Not only that, but even a lot of people don't have full-blown workstations at home. So they are on laptops. Even if your laptop is at a desk and you're sitting, looking, you're looking down at a laptop. I mean, I don't know anybody who types with their hands at their shoulders. I've seen so many people just staring at that screen. Even if they're at a desk with a chair, that's the right height for them. So you not only have the couch issue, but then you have the laptop issue, too, and it can wreck havoc on your body.

Dr. Greaux (06:41):

Yeah. So first of all, I wish people saw your explanation of typing arms, we're on a Zoom, you and I, but the kids, it's a great description. So the basics are this, right? If you have a computer and you're set up on the computer, you want to make sure that your nose is either center to the monitor or your eyeline, your eyes line up with the top of the monitor, right? So, uh, either there or slightly above that. And why is that important? Because when you're in the day, in the moment, it's not an issue, but it's when you start to get lazy or when you start to lose focus that you'll find yourself diving into the computer. And by that, I mean, bringing your nose closer because either your eyes are tired or because you're starting to get tired. And the second your head starts to dip, you start to cause neck tension, right? Now, same thing goes for, uh, cell phones, right?

Dr. Greaux (07:30):

So everybody started to see that people are constantly looking down on their cell phone. And the key again, with either the computer or the cell phone, or even watching TV is your head is a bowling ball. And that bowling ball is 10 to 15 pounds. And every time that head shifts forward over your body, by an inch, you increase the amount of pressure by 10 to 15 pounds at your neck, muscles and upper back muscles have to carry. So the key is, keep your head over your shoulders over your pelvis, right? So if you're on the computer, you gotta make sure that your nose is centered to the monitor, or the eyeline is top of the monitor, or look slightly up, right? If you're looking down or you're on the laptop, looking down, you're going to have problems. Same thing with texting. You got a text in a neutral position, meaning bring the phone up to your head, not your head down to your phone.

Dr. Greaux (08:18):

So, just like if you were going to put your hand in a, I don't know if you're praying position, maybe I don't know how to describe it, but if you take your phone and you put it up, bring it up towards your head and type there and text there, it will be much better for you. So, I'm also realistic. Like, I know you're not going to do that all day, but if you can periodically just say, Hey, I'm not going to text down. Let me bring the phone up. If you do that every once in a while, you will save your neck so much stress that you'll be very happy. Headaches you'll realize get better. If you fix the position, you'll start to get more energy. So that's the head and neck position, really important that people realize that one. So I hope I was clear with that.

Dr. Greaux (08:58):

Was that good? Okay. Now let's go to your, your sitting position, right? So for a typical patient, not scoliosis or scoliosis, it's also going to be the same with the screens, but now let's talk about sitting, right? So sitting, uh, the main thing you want to do is, when you're sitting in your chair, if you have a proper chair, um, you either want to sit with--the first choice is to sit with your button all the way back in the chair, right? Because it's built and designed to support you. So if you go all the way back into the chair, the back of the chair is going to give you the support that you need. It's going to put your spine into a neutral position. Your butt is going to be back. And then it's going to put your body properly distributed over your, your butt really, right.

Dr. Greaux (09:42):

Gravity is going to go down your head through your butt, and it's going to minimize the amount of stress or tension on that lower back. Now there's some people that sit on the edge of the chair. So that's good as well, right? Sitting at the edge of the chair. But the problem is, that becomes an active position. Meaning your muscles in your lower back have to work really hard to hold that position. And those are the people that will go home and start to say, Oh, my back is really sore, although I sat perfectly, I don't understand. Well, why? Your muscles aren't used to holding that position. So try and sit back and let the chair do its job for you. So either sit all the way back, first choice, with your butt against the back and your back, uh, actually touching the back rest and, or, um, make sure you're at the edge of the chair.

Dr. Greaux (10:25):

And again, the key is when you're in those positions, make sure you set up your monitor. So you're in the right spot. Okay? So that's the chair. Now, here's the next key, which everybody forgets about. You got to sit with your weight equally distributed on both your butt cheeks, alright? Do not sit on your foot! I don't know how many people do this, but it's like, they stand up. They prop their foot under one butt cheek and they lean to that side. Okay. Now, if you don't have a scoliosis, look at what you just did to your spine, you bent your spine. Okay? I'm going to ask you wherever you are right now. Stand up, pick a foot, put it underneath your chair, sit on it. And you're going to see if one bit--butt cheek is higher than the other, your spine is going to bend opposite. The butt cheek you're sitting on, right? Now, really important that we go to scoliosises right? Now, most lumbar curves, meaning lower back curves, bend one way or the other. If you're going to sit with one butt cheek higher than the other, it could be making your spine worse. So you have to teach your kid or you have to be conscious of the fact that they have to start to mind their posture, keep their weight equally distributed between their butt cheeks. Not one more on the other.

Ashley B (11:38):

I don't know, not to interrupt you, but I don't know if you see this in your clinic. When I worked in the clinic, now this was years ago, I saw this a lot where with women, I think it's more, more common to sit on your foot, but with men, what I would see as they have these huge wallets and they have their wallet in their pants pocket. And that almost does the exact same thing as sitting on their foot.

Dr. Greaux (12:02):

Yeah, I think there was actually a Seinfeld episode about that. And I think Costanza, George, had like all these business cards and receipts, uh, in his back pocket. And I think it was, yeah, I remember that episode because it was really funny, but yes, a lot of men do carry their wallet in their back pocket. Uh, so it's, again, something that you need to start to pay attention to and say, okay, how do I maximize it? So make sure that your monitor's set up right, your chair's set up right. Now, as of lately for office workers, you've seen the stand-up desks and the stand-up desks are great, but again, throughout the day, your body still needs a break. So if you have the stand-up desk, great, use it. If you don't have a stand-up desk, just periodically get up, because sitting is really the worst position for you.

Dr. Greaux (12:49):

So of any type of condition, sitting is the worst, because it makes certain muscles tighter. It makes other ones weaker. Uh, and it's just a, uh, a wreck that's going to get worse the longer you do it. Now we're working from home, some of us, because of this current situation that we're in, you've got to make sure you're sitting properly. You can't sit on the couch all day and work. It's going to be a problem. You can't lay on your bed and try and do homework that way. You can't do your spreadsheets when lounged out on the floor, you can't. You've got to be really mindful of your position because it makes such a difference.

Ashley B (13:23):

Absolutely. And I feel like this podcast was designed for me. It's funny because our listeners can't see it, but I wish they could, as you start talking about posture, I immediately am sitting up straighter and being more aware of my surroundings. And it is, I want to state how important this is because I actually designed an office for people who worked in the chiropractic profession. We had the sit-stand desks. Everybody had a monitor riser to make sure that we were very aware of our surroundings. And even though I'm aware of that, I can easily sit here and slouch and--all day long. And so that is so, so, so important. We could probably talk about it all day, but let's transition a little bit to a scoliosis patient that comes into your office is going to likely be prescribed some custom exercises based on their scoliosis pattern that they can do at home. It's actually one of the things that draws people to CLEAR Scoliosis Institute and the CLEAR approach, is a significant component of care can be done at home. Can you talk to me about that custom-prescribed home exercise program, which would be more of the treating scoliosis at home home type topic that we're on today?

Dr. Greaux (14:49):

Yeah, so again, um, every condition is different, but most cases that we will manage have some type of home exercise. So this is where I said it gets really tricky when you say what kind of home exercises to do. It is very specific as to what we do and how we do. And it's not like I can just throw them up on a website, because every single scoliosis is different. There are no two that are the same. They're not, it just doesn't work like that. They're like snowflakes or individual patterns. So you have to understand that when you go to a CLEAR doctor, uh, you come to my clinic, you're going to get specific home exercises to do. Now the greatest thing about our technique and our treatment protocols is we're empowering the patient to be able to do things on their own, to help manage their condition.

Dr. Greaux (15:37):

So it's not just the time they're in our office. We want to carry over into real life scenario. So with kids, some of them start with us from a really young age. I've had kids, uh, that, you know, from six years old, they have a condition of it. They start to treat with us, right? So imagine if that kid had to be in my office every day, from the time he was six, until they hit skeletal maturity. You're talking at least, on average, I don't know, anywhere from another 10 years to maybe 16 years. That's a really long time to have somebody in your office. So part of what has to be done is identify the condition properly, figure out what exercises have to be done and teach them to the patients so that they can do it. It is part of their prescribed home exercises. And when they come back for a follow-up, you're going to see, did they do their exercise or not? Because it is what retrains their brain, right? So it is making sure that we retrain the brain to retrain the muscles, to help to reduce the curves and manage them properly

Ashley B (16:35):

Well, and I think it's important, very, very important to note that each case of scoliosis is unique. Just like if people get Invisalign for their teeth, that Invisalign is unique to what is going on with their teeth. So somebody can't just say, Oh, you went to a CLEAR scoliosis doctor, I'm going to do the same exercises that you're doing at home. That's not at all what it is because it is unique to the individual's scoliosis case. Now I have heard patients say in my time with CLEAR, it is a huge time commitment, it is no joke, it takes a lot of work on behalf of the patients. How do you work with the patients to make sure that they can fit this program, custom designed for them, into their already busy lives?

Dr. Greaux (17:25):

So I'm going to tell you from, from my perspective, right, because every doctor manages these different and every clear doctor uses different techniques, but essentially we want the same response. So personally, I have three daughters and I know how busy they are. They're currently 17, 15, 11. One has dance, one has volleyball, they all have school. Then they have their friends, you know? So I get the chaos. I understand the chaos. And it is set up strategically so that it becomes a reality, right? We want this to be a realistic part of your life right now. It's not only saying, Hey, let's be realistic, but I give you exercises that are going to be, they're going to give you the most bang for your buck. Meaning they're most effective for your condition because yes, I could give you a hundred different exercises for your bicep, for instance, but why not give you one exercise that's going to give you the largest improvement and give you the most, whatever you're looking for in a bicep. If it's a bigger muscle, a bigger muscle. Same thing with your scoliosis exercises. Yes, I could give you a ton of stretches. I could give you a ton of exercises. I could literally have you doing eight hours of exercise on your own at home per day, but is it realistic? No, if you're a child, you've got all those activities. If you're an adult, you've got work, you've got family, you've got your husband or wife or your partner that you have to deal with. You have activities and it's gotta be done right so that it goes into the fact that this is my life and you manage it properly so that it doesn't become a burden. It's something that you can manage and do to get the best possible outcome for each current case.

Ashley B (19:04):

That's one of the things I have loved about working with CLEAR-certified doctors is seeing our doctors like you, Dr. Alex, truly take the time to get to know their patient in every single aspect. So like you just said, if they have something that's very important to them or that they absolutely need to do in their life, you're going to prescribe a program that allows them to continue doing those things. And by doing that, the patient, you said, the more bang for their buck, but the patient is going to be more likely to get the best results. And so let's talk about those results a little bit. What are some of the results you've seen recently with your patients, in part due to the home exercise program? I know we can't say it's like only one thing. The entire approach works together, but what are some of the results you've seen lately?

Dr. Greaux (19:57):

You know, it's, I gotta be honest with you. For whatever reason, this month was really interesting in my clinic. We're in, uh, middle of February today. And for whatever reason, the last four weeks, I've had five patients from Argentina that flew in from, for treatment. I had two patients from Mexico that flew in from treatment. And now I have a bunch of local kids here. So, you know, these patients have come in from all over the place because we are specialists in the community and they know what kind of work we do. Some of them been referred by doctors. Some of them been referred by patients, and some have just found us. Now, to me, like my reason for CLEAR was it was the only condition that I couldn't figure out. When somebody came in, I had to look at them in the face and say, I can't do anything for you because I properly trained.

Dr. Greaux (20:49):

And now I'm able to take some of these patients that are all of a sudden, this scenario where they have to have surgery, but they say, you know what, I heard about this one guy, or I read about this, or I found a CLEAR doctor and they come to me and all of a sudden they do treatment. And they're out of surgical zone, meaning they're not in a point that they need surgery anymore. Send them home with their home exercises. They come back and they follow up with me. We take a post x-ray and they look at the x-ray and they start to cry because they realized they were able to avoid surgery because of their commitment to what they did. Right? So to me, it's not just surgery, right? Because some people are here, not in surgical zone. Some people might have pain, not common, but some people might have pain.

Dr. Greaux (21:35):

They start to treat with me and it's such a different technique than anything they've ever done, whether they're an adult and they've tried so many things and they can't get relief, all of a sudden their quality of life improves, right? I have some people that come in here and they say, it's actually more common in adults, believe it or not, but kids as well, they'll come in and say, you know what? I don't like my shoulders unleveled, right? And I noticed that I have a balance issue or my skirt doesn't hang the way it's supposed to, or the strap on my dress falls always on this side. Those little things for each person is really my goal, is to make sure I don't just under, uh, don't just address their underlying condition, but address what their reality is, right? If they want to be able to play sports, but they haven't been able to, if they want to be able to function without pain, and they haven't been able to. If they want to be able to reduce their curve and get it as low as possible and nothing has worked and it keeps going up and up, or if they're surgical and we get them out of the surgical zone. Well, I did my job. So my outcomes are different for every person. We sit down and we have a discussion as to what is it that you're expecting? Like, what do you want for your treatment? Is it just escape surgical zone? Is it just help with pain? You know, what is it? Because I'm here to help a patient as a whole person, not just, here's my spine. I'm not treating just a condition. I'm treating somebody's life, right? And that's how I have to look at these because it's a quality of life, whether they're starting with me at six years old or 90 years old, every person is different and they all want different things out of their treatment.

Dr. Greaux (23:14):

So my outcomes are kind of in line with what the patient wants. I want a smaller curve. I want to breathe better. I want to be more balanced and look better. I wanted to not have pain. I want to be able to sleep at night. You know, those things are what we work for. So it's not just a number and people have to realize, Oh, the curve went from 40 to 30. Great. That's fantastic. It's unheard of, it's not supposed to happen. And we get to do it every day, but you know what, to me, so what? Does it give you quality of life? Is it going to help you in the end? Yes. And that's what we look for. So we have a ton of before and after x-rays, we have a ton of testimonials, but understand it's more than just a condition and people have to realize that.

Ashley B (23:54):

And I think you said something really important that I want to point out here. You said I sought out CLEAR Scoliosis Institute because scoliosis was the only condition I couldn't figure out. And I've been working with chiropractors for 12 years, and I've seen chiropractors have their own child's scoliosis progress significantly under their care. And I think that, that is not saying anything against chiropractic, that is saying something about the complexity of scoliosis and how important it is to find someone with the advanced training and certification that like you said, they don't just have one scoliosis case a month. They're dealing with scoliosis every single day. So I know we need to wrap up here, and I guess I just want to get your final thoughts on if there is somebody out there right now who's listening and thinking about scoliosis treatment at home. After everything you say--said today already, what's the one final thing you would want to leave that individual with?

Dr. Greaux (25:06):

Um, you know, again, I can't stress enough, the importance of finding somebody who's properly trained and managing this condition. And the first thing you can do is go to the CLEAR Institute website, um, find a doctor near you or find, you know, if there's not somebody right in your area, call the closest one. You know, maybe you can arrange something with somebody. You're more than welcome to call me. I'm happy to guide people and give them advice. I don't mind, you know? I'm a people person. I'm not just about, Hey, you're coming in here for treatment or I'm not going to talk to you. Just find somebody that is going to treat you appropriately, find the right qualified individual, the CLEAR Institute website's the easiest way to do it because of how much additional training these doctors have. So, uh, you know, we're all pretty mindful of, we just want to help patients, because you know, it's such a complicated condition that if you find a CLEAR-certified doctor, it's truly because they care about a patient and they took it upon themselves to get all this advanced training and really learn, because there's doctors that just, they don't want to deal with this stuff because it is that hard.

Dr. Greaux (26:08):

So go to the website, find a CLEAR doc near you, or give me a call. I'm happy to guide you, at least give you some information.

Ashley B (26:16):

And that's one of the things I love about you, Dr. Alex, is I know with every single patient that you work with, you're treating them the exact same way you would treat your own children, and giving them the exact same recommendations you would give to your own kids. And you take this personally and get to know every single patient. So, thank you so much for joining us. It is always a pleasure to connect with you.

Dr. Greaux (26:40):

Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

Ashley B (26:42):

Have a great day.

Dr. Greaux (26:43):

You too.

Ashley B (26:49):

For more information, visit clear-institute.org. There is more to come next week.

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Author: Dr. Alex Greaux

Dr. Greaux has been a practicing Chiropractor for over 15 years. He received a Doctorate in Chiropractic from Life University and a minor in nutrition from the same. He also holds a degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Miami. He has been certified to treat scoliosis since 2007, and in this capacity has helped countless scoliosis patients achieve successful curve reduction results. In 2013, he realized the unique distinction of being CLEAR™ certified in Intensive Care Treatment of Scoliosis. Throughout his career, Dr. Greaux has had the good fortune of working with the NBA Miami Heat, rehabilitating injured players, as well as treating numerous college and high school athletes. Dr. Greaux is a member of the International Chiropractic Scoliosis Board.
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