The Schroth Method in Midtown – Part 1

For patients that need treatment for scoliosis in Midtown, the best possible way  to bring about improvements is with an exercise program provided by our experts in The Schroth Method in Midtown.

This is a two-part article from Dr. Jon Diamond, DPT, PT, expert provider of The Schroth Method.  Click the link to read the second article – The Schroth Method in Midtown Part 2.

It may surprise you to hear that when you’re sitting or standing as straight as you possibly can, your spine is actually curved in several places.  These curves are vertical, which means that you would only be able to see them if you looked at an image of your spine from the side, while it would look straight from behind.  This curvature of the spine is completely natural, and its shape serves a specific function supporting the rest of the upper body.  But if the spine curves to either side to any degree, it means that scoliosis is present.

Scoliosis causes the spine to curve in the wrong direction, which can throw many other elements of upper body movement out of whack as a result (this is why we provide the Schroth Method in Midtown, more on that later).  Although it’s fairly common—especially in developing adolescents—scoliosis does not always require treatment.  When it’s determined that treatment is needed, there are a few options available, such as bracing, casting, and in extreme cases that don’t improve, surgery.  But one of the most important and effective treatment options for scoliosis is the Schroth Method, which considers the complex shape of the spine and teaches patients a series of lifelong techniques to address and improve their abnormal spinal curvature.

Why is Dr. Diamond a Schroth Method expert in Midtown?  First, a brief anatomy lesson to better understand scoliosis

In order to understand how scoliosis affects the spine, it’s helpful to first have a general picture of what the spine looks like and how the curvature changes it.  The spine is a column of small bones called vertebrae, which collectively support and stabilize the entire upper body.  These vertebrae are grouped based on their location in the spine as follows:

  • Cervical: this region of the spine runs from the base of the skull to just above the chest; it consists of seven vertebrae, which are labeled from the top to the bottom of the cervical spine as C1-C7
  • Thoracic: the thoracic spine begins immediately below the cervical spine and connects directly to the ribs, which makes it relatively stiff and stable, without much movement compared to the rest of the spine; it consists of 12 vertebrae, which are labeled in the same top-to-bottom manner as T1-T12
  • Lumbar: the lower back is the lumbar spine, which contains the largest and strongest vertebrae of all, and is responsible for carrying a large portion of your body weight; it spans from the bottom of the ribs to the top of the hips and contains five vertebrae, labeled L1-L5
  • Sacrum: immediately below the lumbar spine is the sacrum, which contains five vertebrae that usually fuse in adulthood to form a single bone
  • Coccyx: the lowest part of your spine is called the coccyx, or tailbone, which also contains fused vertebrae—either 4 or 5 in this case—that form one bone

As mentioned above, when viewed from the side, you can see that the spine contains both inward and outward curves.  The inward curves of the spine are called kyphosis, while the outward curves are called lordosis.  There are two of each of these curves in the spine, which are located in several places:

  • The thoracic spine and sacrum each have a kyphosis curve
  • The cervical and lumbar spine each have a lordosis curve

These four curves are responsible for the general shape of your spine and help the back to carry your bodyweight. They are also extremely important for flexibility and for permitting you to bend, twist, and rotate your spine in so many directions.  In short, the natural curves of the spine play a big part in allowing the spine to function normally.

No known cause for the majority of scoliosis cases there’s help for those in need of The Schroth Method in Midtown

Scoliosis is not a disease, but rather a term used to describe this abnormal sideways curvature of the spine.  It is the most common spinal deformity in school-age children and affects approximately 2-3% of the population (which equates to about 6 million Americans).  When scoliosis occurs, the spine usually curves in one of three ways:

  • To the side, as a single curve to the left (shaped like the letter “C”)
  • To the side, as a single curve to the right (shaped like a backwards “C”)
  • With two curves (shaped like the letter “S” when looked at from the back)

Scoliosis most commonly develops between the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine, but may also occur only in the cervical or lumbar spine.  Although scoliosis can be caused by certain conditions like multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy, the vast majority of cases—up to 80%—have what’s called idiopathic scoliosis.  The term “idiopathic” essentially means that there is no known cause or explanation for why the scoliosis has developed.

Scoliosis is typically seen in adolescents between 10-18 years of age while the individual is going through puberty.  But it can also develop earlier in life or go undetected until adulthood, which may lead to additional problems down the road.  In general, the type of scoliosis can be described based on the age of the patient and its cause as follows:

  • Infantile idiopathic scoliosis: diagnosed in children ages 0-3
  • Congenital scoliosis occurs when the spine does not develop properly in the womb and the condition is noticed at birth
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis: caused by brain, spinal cord, and muscular system disorders
  • Syndromic scoliosis: develops as part of an underlying syndrome or disorder
  • Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis: diagnosed in children ages 4-9
  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: diagnosed in young people between ages 10-18
  • Adult idiopathic or degenerative scoliosis: diagnosed in people older than 18

Early scoliosis diagnosis and Schroth Treatment Intervention is the Key

In addition to the curvature of the spine, it may be possible to identify scoliosis by other signs as well.  The primary symptoms of scoliosis are:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • Having one shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other
  • An uneven waist
  • Having one hip that is higher than the other

If a scoliosis curve gets worse, the spine will also rotate or twist in addition to curving to the side, which can cause the ribs on one side of the body to stick out further than the other side.  But what’s important to realize is that issues like this are rare, and most cases of scoliosis are mild when they begin and don’t cause the patient any pain or interfere with their movements at first.  Problems can occur, however, when a patient has scoliosis for a long period of time but doesn’t do anything to address it.

This is why it’s crucial to diagnose scoliosis early and manage it appropriately once identified.  Parents should make sure that their children are receiving regular checkups with a doctor that will look for any signs that might suggest scoliosis is present.  A typical checkup for scoliosis will usually consist of the following:

  • The doctor taking a detailed medical history and asking about any recent growth changes in the patient
  • A physical exam, which may include the patient standing and bending forward from the waist with arms hanging loosely to the side, to see if one side of the ribcage is more prominent than the other
  • A neurological exam may also be performed, which will check for muscle weakness, numbness, or abnormal reflexes
  • Some doctors may also request an X-ray if they suspect scoliosis is present but are not absolutely certain

If a patient is diagnosed with scoliosis, the doctor will determine if treatment is needed based on how severe the curvature is and at what stage it’s been detected.  For very mild cases, the doctor may recommend waiting and regularly monitoring the spine to see if the curve gets worse, but in more advanced cases, some form of treatment is often necessary.  There are a number of treatment options available for scoliosis, with the two of the most common interventions being bracing and exercise, which both serve their own purpose and may be used together.  But when it comes to exercise, a program called the Schroth Method stands above the rest, serving as perhaps the patient’s best possible path to success in overcoming their scoliosis.

Developed by a scoliosis patient, for scoliosis patients

The Schroth Method was created by Katharina Schroth, a German physical therapist who lived with scoliosis in the early 20th century.  At the age of 16, Schroth was given a steel brace to address her condition, but was unsatisfied with her improvements and decided to develop a more functional approach to treating herself.

Inspired by the way a balloon inflates and deflates, she became interested in trying to mimic similar types of changes in her body.  So Schroth worked on her own body and began to design postures that were intended to balance her muscle strength and realign her spine.  She noticed that the muscles in concave (shaped inward) or narrow areas were weak and needed to become widened and stronger, while the muscles in the convex (shaped outward) areas of her body were too long and overused.  With this in mind, she created breathing exercises performed in front of a mirror which helped her better move her ribs and also influenced her torso, working from the inside out.  Additional exercises were added to improve her posture and her perception of it, and in 1921 she began treating other patients with this set of techniques, which came to be known as the Schroth Method.

The Schroth Method has evolved over the years, but today it remains a preferred intervention for scoliosis patients that is still based on the original approach designed nearly a century ago.  What makes the Schroth Method different from other types of exercises for scoliosis is that it is a 3-D approach that strongly considers the 3-D shape of the spine and the fact that scoliosis is a spinal deformity in three dimensions, not two.  Due to the complex nature of how scoliosis affects the spine, treating it requires more than merely straightening the spine from one angle.  It takes a comprehensive approach to align the 3-D geometry of the spine, and the Schroth Method works to achieve this with its unique set of exercises.

Our co-owner Jon Diamond is a certified practitioner of the Schroth Method

Unfortunately, the number of physical therapists who are trained to administer the Schroth Method is quite small, but we’re proud to inform you that our co-owner Jon Diamond, DPT is one of these therapists.  Jon is certified in teaching the Schroth Method and has a special interest in treating scoliosis in both nonoperative and postoperative patients.  So if you or your child has been diagnosed with scoliosis or you’ve noticed symptoms that may suggest scoliosis is present, we strongly encourage you to contact Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.  After completing a thorough evaluation, Jon will determine if scoliosis is present and then develop a personalized Schroth Method treatment program that will begin immediately.

Be sure to read our next article as well, where we take a closer look at the Schroth Method and why we consider it to be the preferred approach for all scoliosis patients.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Diamond, PT and The Schroth Method in Midtown NYC, we encourage you to call us at (212)-317-8303.