Throughout Episode 17, Dr. Andrew Strauss and host Ashley Brewer discuss the topic of treatment for adult scoliosis. Dr. Andrew has been actively engaged in scoliosis treatment for 37 years, so he is an excellent host for this topic.
Throughout the discussion between Ashley and Dr. Strauss you'll hear:
Since Episode 17 is specifically geared towards treatment for adult scoliosis, if you're an adult living with scoliosis, we hope you'll tune in and enjoy the show!
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Hello, listeners. Ashley Brewer here, your host for today's episode on Treatment for Adult Scoliosis, episode 17, with Dr. Andrew Strauss. Dr. Strauss is a 1982 honors graduate of Palmer College. He is the director of the Hudson Valley Scoliosis and Correction Center in New York. He's been actively engaged in scoliosis treatment for the past 37 years. In fact, he's even authored two books on the subject, Your Child has Scoliosis, and The Truth About Adult Scoliosis. He currently serves as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for CLEAR Scoliosis Institute. Meeting with Dr. Andrew is always both educational and inspirational. I hope you'll enjoy the conversation as much as I did. Episode 17, let's go.
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.
Dr. Andrew, welcome to Life Beyond the Curve. It is always great to have you.
Thanks very much. I really appreciate the opportunity to educate people about scoliosis. You know how passionate I am, and especially this topic about adult scoliosis. I believe that what we have for adult scoliosis is beyond everything else out there available. So I'm very excited to talk to you about it.
So you already hinted at our topic, which is Treatment for Adult Scoliosis. And before we get into the nuts and bolts of how you treat adult scoliosis, let's first talk about the two different forms of adult scoliosis. One is adolescent scoliosis in the adult, and then the other is adult degenerative scoliosis. Can you elaborate a little bit on these conditions for our listeners?
Yes, I can. So we know that a child that has scoliosis doesn't have their scoliosis magically go away when they get older. They become an adult with child scoliosis. We also know that once the child hits skeletal maturity, unless the curve is quite large, say above 50 degrees, they may not even have any progression, but what they will have is they're going to have pain and pain is going to usually begin at around between 25 and 50 years old. So most of these patients are going to come in complaining of pain. And I'm going to ask them, when did you first have their diagnosis? Well, maybe 10, 11, 12 years old. Have you had any issues with it? No, not until now, but now they're starting to have problems. And then we have another whole group of adults with scoliosis, and this is what's called de novo or degenerative scoliosis. These are adults above the age of 50. They have now got degenerative changes in their spine and due to this degeneration, ligaments become weak, the discs become thin, and the spine collapses into a scoliosis. And this type of scoliosis requires a very different type of treatment.
Now, when it comes to treating adult scoliosis, let's talk about the traditional treatment path for most people. So when they get their diagnosis for most patients following the traditional medical approach, what does the tr--or do the treatment recommendations typically look like for an adult?
Yeah, and we see this happening all the time, and this is why the adults are seeking out, uh, alternative scoliosis treatment, because the conventional treatment is going to be something like, well, take an Advil if you're having pain. Uh, maybe swim, maybe try to do some low impact exercise. Um, eventually it may be injection therapy, like steroid injections into the spine, that kind of a thing. Things that are not addressing the underlying scoliosis really at all, but are only addressing the symptom picture of the patient.
So a lot more pain management and not so much, here's what we can do to help your scoliosis at all.
And very frustrating for the patients because they feel I'm just getting worse and worse and worse. And then I'm not getting offered really any kind of constructive treatment. They're just telling me, try to deal with the pain and that's not satisfactory.
Yeah. And nobody likes to search and search and search for answers and then get the answer and have the answer be there's nothing we can do, it just is what it is. So that brings us to what you specialize in, which is a non-invasive approach to treating scoliosis. What does this approach look like for adults at your clinic?
I have to tell you, there is no single treatment for adults with scoliosis. It really depends upon the situation that that person is in. It depends, for example, is this an adult with adolescent scoliosis, in other words, scoliosis from childhood, and now they've grown up? Is it degenerative scoliosis? Is the curve large? Is the curve small? Our treatment really has seven different tools that we will apply in an adult with scoliosis and we'll apply those tools appropriately to the case. And they range from things like teaching them, how to do their normal daily activities. Like how should they carry their handbag? How should they sit, to scoliosis specific exercises, to yoga for scoliosis. We even now have validated bracing for adults with scoliosis, and we have multiple types of braces that are available. So there's a wide, wide range. But the main point is that each patient has to be treated on an individual basis. And we use these seven different tools to craft a customized program of care. No injections, no pain pills. This is really exercise-based, and it really does work
Well, and I believe that's what makes scoliosis such a complex and confusing condition, is that every single case that you deal with is different. So like you said, there's not a one size fits all approach for your patients. So let me ask you, when a patient is an adult versus an adolescent, are your treatment goals different for someone who's an adult versus an adolescent?
Very much so, because when we have a young child who is still very flexible, we have the expectation of having significant curve reductions. When we have an adult, our significant curve reductions go away, and now we have modest curve reductions. And when I say modest, we'll, we'll consistently see curve reductions around 15 to 20%, which for adults is amazing. They're very, very happy with that, but our, but pain control, that's very important. You know, to a certain degree, the scoliosis is theoretical. It's the pain that people present with. So we have an effective way of dealing with the pain that does not include taking tablets. It includes getting the inflammation out of the back. It includes de-stressing, an unloading of the spine, and these things give people tremendous pain relief, and to be able to get that and to be able to do that themselves.
And our whole approach is that we want to empower the patient to self-treat. So when we have an adult with degenerative scoliosis, we want to give them the tools so that they can treat themselves. Yeah, we can't say to them, you're never going to have pain again, because let's say they go, I don't know, to the shopping mall and they're standing on their feet for five or six hours. Yes, their back is going to get tired. Their back is going to ache. Truth is, many people are going to experience that, but this person now knows that they can go home and they can do these exercises and maneuvers and give themself consistent pain relief. And that's very, very empowering for an adult with degenerative scoliosis.
So what type of a commitment is required by a patient? I know there's not a typical, but if your average adult with scoliosis comes in and they're doing your custom prescribed home exercise program, what type of a commitment does that look like? Because I know that's one of the biggest benefits for CLEAR patients is that they can do, take really their scoliosis into their own hands and do a lot of that at home. But I also know that on the other hand, there's a time commitment required. What does that look like?
A very important point to make first is that it does not require 100% compliance. It requires about 80% compliance. So that means about eight out of 10 days, they have to do the exercises. This takes a lot of the psychological pressure off of an adult because they don't feel that this is going to ruin their life. If they want to go away for a few days and not do their exercises, it's fine. Just pick them up again when you come home. They want to go out in the evening and not do their exercises that day? It's fine, but just pick it up again the next day. So these, the exercises are going to take about 30 to maybe 40 minutes, depending upon the situation. However, Ashley, a very important point is that some of these exercises do not require the person's concentration. These are passive-type exercises.
For example, standing on a disc with weights on the body. I actually don't want the patient to be focused on what they're doing. I tell them, watch TV while you're doing this, don't concentrate on what you're doing because it all should be happening subconsciously. All the correction is happening subconsciously. Other parts of the program would involve, for example, how do you sit? Well, they have to sit anyway. It doesn't take any extra time, but now when they sit, they're going to know, should I cross my right knee over my left knee, do I cross my left knee over my right knee? How should I sit to hold myself in the corrected posture? These things don't actually take any extra time.
Do you find that your adult patients are maybe a bit more motivated to do that aspect of their care because they deal with pain on a fairly regular basis?
Yes. I love the adult patients. The adult patients are so motivated and so dedicated. They'd been often times through so much that they're very appreciative of what we can do for them. It's really a wonderful, wonderful patient group. And I love treating the adults.
So I'd love to hear a specific story about one of the recent adult patients that you have seen in your clinic and kind of what their experience was like and what their results were like. Because hearing the before and after stories is one of my favorite parts about doing this.
I have a great case that comes to mind. I'm not gonna say her name obviously, but this is a woman who now is in her mid-seventies and she has had degenerative scoliosis since she's had menopause. So at the age of 50, she goes through menopause and her spine starts to deteriorate and she begins having pain. And this woman had been through many different chiropractors. She had been through pain management. She had been through lots and lots of different approaches and nothing really helped her. She came to me and we gave her a scoliosis specific exercise program. Plus we gave her about 10 visits inside the office of doing therapies that we use to get mobility into these restricted areas, to align the spine, to train the muscles and strengthen her. We even taught this particular woman yoga for scoliosis. This has been tremendous for her. Interestingly, her daughter is a yoga instructor, but because she was given generalized yoga, it never helped her. In fact, it aggravated her. But now when we gave her specific yoga for scoliosis, which is tailored for her specific, uh, curve type and curve size, she actually said to me, even last week, I'm getting such amazing relief from the yoga for scoliosis. She just loves doing it. She's motivated.
Awesome. I love hearing those types of stories. And if you're listening and you, haven't heard Dr. Strauss' episode on yoga for scoliosis, make sure you go back and listen to that because we had an entire conversation surrounding that topic. So Dr. Strauss, just in wrapping up on this topic, if there is an adult listening who has scoliosis, who maybe thinks there's nothing that can be done or is sick of dealing with medication or other methods by which to treat the pain, what advice do you have for that individual who might be listening right now?
Number one, never, never give up. You really have to persist and you will find somebody that can help you. There is a solution. There is help out there. Do not give up. Do not just roll over on this thing and say, okay, I'm just going to take my Tylenol, I'm going to go to my pain management doctor, there's nothing that can be done, I'm just going to deal with my pain. Do not accept that. Seek out help and you will find it. There are many, many things that can be done for an adult with scoliosis. We have great results. And I don't know what else to tell you. I think contact the CLEAR Institute, find a CLEAR-certified chiropractor in your area that will be able to help you.
And I love that answer, because probably a couple times a month at minimum, we get an email at CLEAR or somebody chats with us on our website and says, is it too late for me? And so what I'm hearing from you today is it's not too late. There are many options, contact CLEAR to find a CLEAR doctor today. So thank you, Dr. Andrew for shedding light on this topic for us. It was great to have you on the show.
Thanks for the opportunity, Ashley, as always. I really appreciate it.
Alright, have a great day.
Adult scoliosis can be a debilitating and painful affliction. Proper treatment is essential. If after listening to today's show, you would like more information or are interested in finding a CLEAR doctor near you, visit clear-institute.org. To find a doctor, click on the purple Find a Doctor button at the top of the page. There's more to come next week.