In Episode 24, host Heather Rotunda and Dr. Mark discuss lumbar scoliosis, its symptoms, and treatment.
Throughout the episode, you'll hear:
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Hello, and welcome to episode 25 of Life Beyond the Curve. I'm your host, Heather Rotunda, and joining me today to discuss "Lumbar Scoliosis Treatment" is Dr. Mark Myers of Wheaton Family Chiropractic in Wheaton, Illinois. Dr. Mark's sister was diagnosed with scoliosis and when no other doctor could help, she got amazing relief from a chiropractor, inspiring Dr. Mark to become a chiropractor. He received his Bachelor of Science in Human Biology from Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne, Indiana, and his Doctor of Chiropractic at National College of Chiropractic. He has been with CLEAR since 2012 and is certified in both Standard and Intensive Care. I'm sure you'll enjoy this conversation with Dr. Mark as much as I did. Episode 25, here we 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.
Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Mark.
Oh, it's great to be here. Thanks for having me.
So today's topic is Lumbar Scoliosis Treatment. Before we dive into that, could you explain what exactly lumbar scoliosis is?
That's a great question, yeah. So the lumbar spine is composed of five different bones, uh, the lumbar vertebrae. Uh, some--occasionally there's six, but most people have five. And what happens when those two vertebrae get, uh, tilted at the top and bottom, it's defer--form an angle in the spine. Remember all those, uh, questions we had when we were younger about "when am I gonna ever use this geometry?"
That comes back to, uh, the practical thing, um, way they use geometry. It's when you draw a line off the bottom of the most tilted vertebrae and one off the top of the most tilted vertebrae, and then a 90 degree angle where those two lines bisect, that's, uh, a measure of how much degree the curve actually is. And scoliosis is measured, it's in the scoliosis category once it's above 10 degrees. So from there on up is considered different classifications of scoliosis. Typically like 10 degrees is in the mild, 10 to 20, and then 20 degrees is in the moderate, and it kind of goes up from there.
Okay. So what are some of the most common symptoms or signs of lumbar scoliosis that someone might notice in themselves or in a loved one?
Uh, typically the, uh, pain is not a great indicator of, uh, of scoliosis, unfortunately. Uh, when we look at, uh, we typically want to, uh, parents will notice uneven hips. Uh, we've had patients who come in and say, you know, I've, I've always had to go get my pants hemmed because one of the cuffs is always off. That's an indication that there's an imbalance in the hips. So, really, posture is one of those big things that we see. If we notice there's a gap between, you know, one arm and the waist, uh, that's another sign, uh, an imbalance in the shoulders. Uh, but typically, um, if someone has had, uh, lumbar, uh, scoliosis for a while, we'll see that there's typically a lot of spasm on one side of the back, um, where the muscles are tighter. Occasionally we'll see pain and sometimes even sciatica, which means the pain starts to go down the back of the leg. Again, you could have any, or, uh, any one of those things and it not be lumbar scoliosis. So really the x-ray is the kind of the gold standard of truly, uh, tell if somebody has, uh, a lumbar scoliosis, but those are some of the things that you can typically start to see that there's something not quite right.
Okay. That's very helpful. Uh, when a patient comes to you and says they have, or suspect they have scoliosis, what do you look for?
Good question. Yeah. So the, we will typically start with posture analysis. That gives us so much information about a patient. Uh, the it's amazing how the posture lines up, you know, in the spine ideally should be perfectly straight when we look at it. We look at the head should be in the center of the body and we have a posture grid in our office that helps us identify that. And, um, it's amazing how many days, um, patients have been standing in front of a mirror. And then we ask 'em to look at their posture when we're pointing things out and we're showing 'em in the mirror. And like, they've never seen that before some scales have fallen off. And they're like, I had, I've been looking at my hips, you know, my whole life, but I never noticed that that was higher. My shoulder was higher. My head tilted when I, when I looked in the mirror, uh, so posture is a great one.
We also have another tool called a scoliometer, which is basically like a little a BB. You can even use an iPhone now. Um, they have a little level on there where you could put it on someone's back and see if it starts to tilt. And typically it's a, it's not as definitive as a, an x-ray, but for every one degree on that, it's typically like three degrees on an x-ray. So if you had a, you know, the level on someone's back and it measured 10, that curve could possibly be around 30 degrees. So that's one of the ways that we're able to identify, um, if there's a, if there's a scoliosis. Then, like I mentioned, the, the gold standard would be an x-ray to rule out definitively if they have a, a true scoliosis.
Okay. So now to our topic more specifically, what is the treatment that you use as a CLEAR-certified doctor for, uh, lumbar scoliosis?
Great question. One of the things that, uh, we often overlook are some of the most easy things. And I would say the first thing that we would start with is just drinking water. <laugh> That's one that, uh, it's so often overlooked, but the discs are over 90% water. So when somebody is dehydrated, guess where that comes from. <Laugh> The body pulls water from all those things, uh, that, that are essential. So you, by hydrating and getting the proper amount of water, we typically tell our patients, at least half your body weight and fluid ounces of water should be drunk every day. And that's not anything you want to drink all at once. Typically, uh, hydration is, you know, one to two glasses when you wake up and then you should sip throughout the day. Uh, we even recommend not drinking a whole lot during meals because of the digestive juices. Your body has to have acid and enzymes in order to break the food down. So typically 20 minutes before and after a meal is a great time to hydrate, but hydration is really key to keeping those discs at maximum height.
Uh, doing simple things like that. We also have exercises that help with the hydration of those discs called wobble chair exercises. And those, those exercises are movements that we move the disc and our low back through to actually start pushing water into the disc. So we've all seen a sponge laid out on the driveway and the, on a summer day where it's like hard as a brick. Take that sponge and dunk it in a five gallon bucket of water, you can start moving that, and as you, the, we, it gets, and the more you move it, what happens is it pushes the bad stuff out of that disc and helps get clean water in. And then if you were take it to a cleaner bucket of water, you can continue to get more junk of that sponge and continue to get fresh water in. And that's what these exercises do. It literally like flushes the disc, gets the bad, stagnant fluid out and pushes fresh water in as long as that hydration is there. So we also have other exercises that we use to help the discs and help the lumbar spine with a scoliosis, as far as isometric exercises, uh, different body weighting exercises. And then we also have a lot of scoliosis-specific equipment in our office as well, as CLEAR doctors that we use to specifically treat a lumbar curve.
That's the best explanation I've heard yet about why hydration is so important. And I've heard varying things about drink while you're eating, don't drink while you're eating. I'm bad about getting enough water throughout the whole day, so that's a good reminder, but better not to drink while you're eating
It's okay to have a sip every now and then. But most people, I've seen people drink two and three glasses of different, uh, drinks during a meal, and it just, as far as your, helping your digestive system, it's not gonna help at all.
Right. And that was a, a trick my nieces and nephews used when they were little to not have to finish dinner, because they'd get so full from drinking.
So the treatment that you do, all that you just described, is it a one size fits all routine or, um, is it customized to each patient?
Yeah. I've never seen two scoliosises that were exactly the same, unfortunately. Uh, there, we see curves in different parts of the spine. Some are in the upper back, uh, uh, just underneath the neck, others are mid back. We've seen other ones in low back, some in between the low and mid back, what we call a thoracolumbar curve. Uh, there are others that look alike, but every patient individually responds differently. So we have a whole, uh, host of different ways to analyze the spine that we've learned through the CLEAR Institute, and we're able to utilize the knowledge that we get from all the individualized testing to actually get a unique approach so we can see how, what the best fit is gonna be for that patient, how they're gonna respond, and how much weight we're gonna use, and what exercises we're going to do to individual stretches so that we can help them achieve the best possible results and outcome.
Okay. That's great. So we love hearing before and after stories here on Life Beyond the Curve. Is there a specific story you could share with us about a patient you've treated for lumbar scoliosis and what their experience was like?
Yeah. I have, uh, one of my favorite patients, Laurie, uh, came to us about four years ago and uh, in her mid fifties, and, uh, had a, a lumbar curve. Uh, she had been, uh, to different doctors and her medical doctor told her that her, uh, curve was, the damage had already been done and she's just gonna have to, um, symptomatically deal with it. Uh, there's nothing that really could be done. And she didn't like and had heard about CLEAR and actually came to us, uh, and she did an intensive program with us and, uh, it's uh, oftentimes people think that CLEAR is just for teens, you know, but, uh, we see people of all different ages and see achieve great results. And Laurie really had phenomenal changes. She came from, she loved to walk, that's one of her favorite things to do is go on walks, and she had so much hip pain associated with her low back that, uh, she wasn't able to do that anymore.
And she was just miserable. I mean, and uh, just seeing the transformation, we achieved about a 20% reduction in all of her curves. Her low back specifically went from 27 and a half degrees down to 20. And, uh, she's held that correction and she continues to do an intensive program each summer, um, since she's come in and, uh, she just, every patient that comes in while she's there, um, that, um, is undergoing the CLEAR protocol, she just tells 'em her story about how it's changed her life. And, you know, she is so faithful with doing her exercises, and that's why she's achieved those great results, but she continues to reap the benefits of taking action and, uh, not just thinking that life was over, but looking for an answer and CLEAR was that answer for her. And, uh, we're super excited to see life changes like that with Laurie and with lots of other patients. So.
That's wonderful. And I'm glad you mentioned that CLEAR treatment isn't just for teens. I get that question a lot from patients that, you know, I'm, I'm 40, I'm 50, is it too late for me? Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Dr. Myers, we look forward to having you back on our future episode.
Sounds great. Always a pleasure. Thanks so much, Heather.
Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Life Beyond the Curve. For additional podcasts, articles, blog, posts, and much more information to help you navigate your diagnosis, visit clear-institute.org. More to come next week.