E34: Scoliosis Exercises: What You Should Do and Avoid

E34: Scoliosis Exercises: What You Should Do and Avoid Image

In Episode 34, host Heather Rotunda and Dr. J Hartley discuss scoliosis exercises, what you should do and avoid.

Throughout the episode, you'll hear:

  • The difference between proactive and traditional treatment
  • Why scoliosis specific exercises are beneficial
  • The similarities and differences between CLEAR and other exercise programs
  • What, if any, activities should be avoided

We hope you enjoy the show!

To connect with Dr. J directly, visit Hartley Chiropractic CLEAR Scoliosis Center.

Have a question or comment?

Do you have a question for Dr. J? 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.

Additional Podcasts with Dr. Hartley

Blog Articles by Dr. Hartley


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Episode Transcript

Heather R (00:00):

Hello and welcome to Episode 34 of Life Beyond The Curve. I'm your host, Heather Rotunda. Joining me today to discuss Scoliosis Exercises is Dr. J Hartley in St. Augustine, Florida. Dr. J has been practicing for 30 years and has been with CLEAR since 2015. In addition to being CLEAR certified in both Standard and Intensive care, he's also a board certified Chiropractic Neurologist. It's always a pleasure speaking with Dr.J, and I'm sure you'll learn as much from this conversation as I did. Episode 34, here we go!

Intro (00:35):

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.

Heather R (01:00):

Thank you for joining us again today, Dr. J.

Dr. Hartley (01:05):

Good morning! Glad to be here, Heather.

Heather R (01:08):

Today we're talking about "Scoliosis Exercises, What To Do and What To Avoid." Here at CLEAR, we talk about the merits of proactive treatment. For listeners who may be just starting their scoliosis journey, can you explain what the difference is between proactive and traditional treatments?

Dr. Hartley (01:27):

Sure. Um, when I was, I personally have scoliosis and when I was in chiropractic school, I was the asymptomatic 68 degree scoliosis patient. And I, that really didn't sit well with me and they really didn't offer any pro, proactive care. And so I was always looking for techniques that offered something I could do proactively, cause just intuitively I'm thinking this is gonna get worse if I don't do anything, cause it's a large curve. Um, so it, traditionally there's not a lot out there that's specific to chiropractic. Um, there may be generalized, um, things just to try to work on your general health, but they're not specific to chiropractic. So one of the things that's very unique to CLEAR is it's a proactive system, meaning you don't have to wait till the curve gets worse, or if your symptoms get worse, it allows you to work on it and stay healthy before that. Um, and that's where the term, you know, staying ahead of the curve, uh, comes from.

Heather R (02:39):

Okay. So I hear from patients once in a while who tell me they're active and they see a physical therapist. Is that going to be effective, or is there a big difference between that and scoliosis specific exercises?

Dr. Hartley (02:57):

Okay. So the smaller the curve is, like if you have a very small curve, like 10 degrees, 15 degrees, something like that, the righting reflex of the body wants the curve to be straightened out. Like you have an intelligence in your body that wants to be in a straighter position. And a lot of times when you're working on balance things, um, it may help the curve, but when the curve as the curve progresses, those things may actually make things more detrimental. And I've, I actually have a personal experience where before I discovered CLEAR, I was doing an exercise to help my thoracic spine curve, but it was actually making my lumbar curve worse. And these scoliosis exercises are very specific. We spend a lot of time as CLEAR doctors analyzing the specific exercise for the patient. And you may see certain exercises that look similar to the ones we do, but we might be only prescribing on one side, you know, or it may be different for each person's curve. So it's, um, it's very specific, where aerobics or physical therapy is usually more like a generalized conditioning. Um, and in some cases it can make the scoliosis worse.

Heather R (04:20):

Okay. Good to know. Can you explain for us why scoliosis specific exercises are so beneficial? Or is that pretty much what you just covered with, you know, working on the righting reflexes and all of that?

Dr. Hartley (04:33):

Yeah, well, it is, um, very specific to the x-ray and it's like a mini, it's like you're doing a mini adjustment on your own. So the exercises are very specific to what your x-ray looks like. And so they're very crucial to what we do. So we'll do the more intensive visit in the office where we're doing the, you know, the traction exercises with the vibe, the specific adjustment. And then when you do your exercises at home, you're continuing that correction. So the, the specific spinal corrective exercises are a very important part of the care, but they're much more effective if they're done in combination with the specific CLEAR protocols.

Heather R (05:27):

Okay. And just as a, as a side question, uh, for listeners who have almost no knowledge of CLEAR treatment, can you explain what the vibe is?

Dr. Hartley (05:38):

Um, the vibe is a whole body vibration platform, and it's specifically activating the brain to get the postural muscles to, to work better. And so a lot of the, the care that we do, the will be a combination with the patient standing on a vibration platform or sitting on a vibration platform. And it has a lot of, um, benefits to the body, uh, affecting posture, coordination, balance, activating, you know, muscle groups and the, the brain body connection.

Heather R (06:13):

Okay. So I'm gathering that these scoliosis specific exercises are not one size fits all.

Dr. Hartley (06:21):

Correct. So we'll have a lot of patients that, you know, they wanna self-help their scoliosis. So they may have read a book about yoga for scoliosis or Pilates for scoliosis, but that's probably a little bit specific to scoliosis, but it's a lot different when we have specific exercises based on x-ray. So I think our x-ray, our, our exercises are probably much more specific, um, than any other form of exercises that I know of. So it's very specific to the patient. I think it would be really cool if people that did yoga and had scoliosis, always got an x-ray first, so they could be told, Hey, that one's good, but that one's not good. Um, because you could be doing certain movements that could make your curve worse. And so it's important to know, you know, which ones to avoid and which ones to do more of to help with the curve.

Heather R (07:24):

Right. So patients who may have started doing research online may have run across different names of scoliosis exercise programs like Schroth and SEAS. Can you explain a little bit about what those are, and are, do they have any similarities or differences between what you prescribe as a CLEAR doctor?

Dr. Hartley (07:53):

Okay. The, Schroth is, um, based on your scoliosis pattern, they are specific exercises. Their goal is not to take a pre and post x-ray. It's, it's more about movement and, and function and, um, just working on generalized health, but they're not looking to make large changes on the x-ray. It's more of a feeling better, flexibility. Um, just good movements for people that have the, the scoliosis. SEAS is, um, based on, um, the physical therapists that developed three dimensional bracing in Italy. And it's an exercise program that goes along with their bracing system. And it is a specific exercise based on the person's x-rays. So that part is similar to what CLEAR doctors are trained to do. They are very focused on, um, balance. So when you look at somebody's posture, there's something called coronal and sagittal balance. Basically when you're standing, you're, you're in the midline and they're looking to avoid people being away from the midline, either from the front or the side.

Dr. Hartley (09:15):

So a lot of their exercises are based on that, and they also have an idea that they want to not, they, they wanna do the exercise without assistance. So their exercises are all, um, a postural hold without any equipment involved. Um, so you, you get into a mirror image of your scoliosis, but there's no equipment involved. Um, in CLEAR, we do, uh, a lot of our exercises look like their exercises, but we're having you stand on a, um, stability ball or a pad, and then you have weights hanging off your body in different directions and that gets the brain to make the corrections. So we're looking, we're using the righting reflex in the body to make a postural correction. You have different areas of your brain. Most of the, the, the postural muscles are the muscles that have to do with scoliosis are subconscious. And so when you're consciously holding a position, you're not working those pathways. When you are on an air disk or an in a stability pad and you're not thinking about moving your spine in any direction, you're just have the weights and you're trying to keep the weights in the position that we're telling you to keep 'em in.

Dr. Hartley (10:37):

But then we may have you be doing a word search or you may be watching a video, so your brain is not thinking about correcting your posture. Those are true postural correction exercises. And so that's the spinal weighting or the cantilever, or you might hear, um, neuromuscular reeducation. In CLEAR, those, those are the way we do it. In their system, you're consciously holding a position and you're just holding it as long as you can to develop some memory. So that's, that's the main difference with that one.

Heather R (11:13):

Okay. So are there activities or exercises that a scoliosis, scoliosis patient needs to avoid?

Dr. Hartley (11:25):

Um, well first of all, if the patient is excited about an activity, we want them to continue that activity. We don't wanna take it away from them. We want the, the, the care to be a benefit to them, for them to be excited about it. So as long as they're doing the recommended treatment, whether that's the, the visits to the office, home, scoliosis traction chair, home exercises, home bracing, as long as they're doing those things, they can do their activity as long as it's not excessive. So if they're a competitive swimmer and they're swimming two hours a day, or they're doing ballet and they're doing two hours a day, we want them to continue that as long as they're doing all the other things. So that's the, the most important thing is we don't wanna take away physical activity and enjoyment. We want what we're doing is something that allows them to do those other things.

Dr. Hartley (12:24):

Now it can get excessive, meaning like if you're a professional ballerina and you're seven, 16 years old and you're doing three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, that's gonna be counterintuitive to what we're doing. If you're a competitive swimmer and you're doing two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, it's gonna affect things. Right? So when you exceed two to three hours of activity doing your sport, it could overcome anything we're trying to do positively. But the average child is maybe doing an hour of their sport or activity and all the other things they do will, will be able to offset that. If, if a person has a progressive curve already, they did a study in Australia, so what they looked at is people that already had scoliosis. So let's say you have a 30 degree curve, was most of the people in the group.

Dr. Hartley (13:23):

And then they looked at all the different activities they did. The sports that tended to make the scoliosis progress were things that hyperextended the thoracic spine. So when you look at the back from the side view, you should have a backward curve. If you do things to hyperextend, then that tended to make the scoliosis progress. So people with large scoliosis curves tend to have a loss of the side view, mid-back curve. So where it should go backward or have the fetal curve position, it can actually go forward a little bit. And so anything that makes it go forward more is gonna make the, the thoracic scoliosis worse. So the sports that do that, just think about hyperextension in the mid-back, the worst case scenario would be rhythmic gymnastics. They have their body completely extended in the thoracic spine. Other sports would be like ballerina or gymnast or cheerleading where you may be doing a back flip or a back bend over, that would do that same kind of thing.

Dr. Hartley (14:26):

Volleyball hyperextends the middle back, and then swimming. If you're doing competitive swimming where you're pushing yourself to the max, when you're stabilizing yourself in the water, you're hyperextending your middle back. So, um, swimming is also in that and old research in um, ca there was case studies that would show, well, the person swam and the scoliosis went away. Well, we know that there's a group of people in with juvenile scoliosis that the scoliosis is gonna go away on its own. The body is, has a righting reflex so the body realizes it's going too much one direction and then it wants to pull it back the other direction. So what they think was happening was if the body was already self-correcting, but the person just happened to be swimming. So the orthopedic surgeon would write a paper, Hey, I had this patient, they had a 30 degree curve, they joined the swim team, they came back a year later, they didn't have a scoliosis.

Dr. Hartley (15:32):

So there was a few papers floating around that would say swimming helps scoliosis. But that Australian paper was pretty conclusive. And people that already have scoliosis percentage wise, the competitive swimming, we're talking about hitting it hard, full effort for two hours would make it worse. Now if your kid's like in the developmental swim team or you know, they're going for lessons, something like that, it's not as much as a risk factor. We're talking about competitive swimmer where there's a coach looking down at you with a whistle and you're timing your, you know, you know your laps and people are really pushing it hard. When you do that for two hours, it's a risk factor that can make it worse.

Heather R (16:14):

Okay. Like Michael Phelps level.

Dr. Hartley (16:17):


Heather R (16:18):

Okay. Do you have any final thoughts or advice you'd like to share with the listeners today?

Dr. Hartley (16:26):

Well, many people are looking for, like you opened with, proactive, you know, they're told watch and wait. So I think, uh, quite a few of our patients are people that they discover. They have scoliosis. The pediatrician might see an arch developing when they do Adam's test and bend forward and they see the rib arch and they'll say, well, let's wait and see what it looks like six months from now. If the pediatrician even says that, I would request an X-ray because the easiest time to correct the curve is early on. As you get older and hormones set in, the bones actually go through an asymmetrical bone growth and then it's gonna make it harder to correct. So early intervention is the best and we found that we get very good results when we're working with the six to nine year age group and reducing and preventing these curves from progressing. When those hormones kick in and you already have a 30, 40, 50 degree curve and you're 14 years old, it's gonna be harder to correct than if you would've done it when you were eight or nine years old.

Heather R (17:32):

Right. All right, that's great advice. Thank you for joining us today, Dr. J. It's always a pleasure and we look forward to having you back on a future episode.

Dr. Hartley (17:42):

Thanks, Heather.

Heather R (17:45):

If you've received a diagnosis and want to pursue alternative treatment, go to clear-institute.org and click on the purple Find a Doctor button at the top of the page, search by your location, and find the doctor nearest you.

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Author: Dr. J Hartley

Dr. J Hartley, known as Dr. J, was diagnosed with scoliosis as a young teenager. In the 1970’s, the options given were watch and wait, or surgery. Faced with these two options, no treatment was provided. Not until his own 12-year-old was faced with progressive scoliosis did he find the CLEAR Institute. His daughter visited the CLEAR Institute in St. Cloud, MN for Intensive Care and had good results. She could return to running and soccer. Dr. J decided to return for Intensive Care for himself and the rest is history. He has now been focused on scoliosis detection, prevention, and reduction for over 6 years. Dr. J graduated from the Palmer College of Chiropractic, Davenport, Iowa in 1992 . He become a Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist in 1995 and a Board Certified Intensive Care Scoliosis Doctor in 2015.
Reach out to Dr. J Hartley

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