Our latest visit to the Orthopedic Surgeon

Last Friday was our every-4-months-visit to the Orthopedic Surgeon. And, the kids were actually BUMMED to miss school because it was pajama and movie day (if I had only KNOWN 4 months ago when I scheduled it, I would have tried for a better day!) 🙂 Anyway, we usually go as an entire family because it’s a 2 hour drive to the University of Michigan facility we go to, and because I like to have my husband there for support (I’m always expecting the worst, I guess). Well, my daughter, who is now 9, is holding in her Cheneau brace. She is at about 56 degrees (although, I’m sure everyone reading this is aware that the curve can really be + or – 5 degrees from the measurement). Anyway, she was x-rayed 24 hours out of brace. Before the Cheneau, she was a 67 degree, but that was about 15 months ago, so we were hoping for a bit more progress. We figure where we are lacking is in her Schroth and strength building exercises – we figure that since she is 24 hours out of brace, she needs the muscular training to hold her body in position while out of brace, and then we’ll get better overall results. Since she’s a bit older now than when we first introduced the Schroth techniques, we hope she (and we) can stick to it better. I’d also like to see her doing abdominal and core training exercises once a day when out of the brace since it would seem that the core could get really weak when braced all day. Since none of these activities can HURT, I figure we’ll go ahead and give it a try.

As for my son, he, unfortunately, has progressed. He’s going to be 7 next month and broke the plateau of 20 degrees – that was my pre-determined breaking point for when he would get a nighttime brace. We’ve been so happy with Luke Stikeleather in Virginia, that we are going to have him fitted for a Cheneau for nighttime use. For my daughter, we went the route of the Spinecor when she was in the mid-20 degrees, but we’re going to try this for our son and see if we can get by with being ultra aggressive at night for some freedom during the day. He surprised me, though. Bracing is such a way of life at home, that he is actually EXCITED to be braced. I am just developing my bodysuit design for boys and men, and was able to make him a prototype. He LOVED it and is very excited now to put a brace on top. I think all this time he felt left out that his sister was getting all the “attention”. Well, he will have a lot of adjusting to do, but there is something to be said for getting them prepared early.

As for me, I am taking 6 days away from it all (literally), to go visit Miami, Florida, where I spent many of my childhood and teenage years. I am taking 4 girlfriends with me and am very excited to just relax, focus on warming up and rejuvinating my mind, spirit, and body, so I can be fresh and full of new ideas for helping others through this ministry of my work for and with Scoliosis (and other types) of patients. I hope everyone reading this can take a mini-vacation to recharge in times of stress. Blessings to everyone! Have a great week! Next week, I hope to introduce all sorts of new products on the horizon for EmBraced In Comfort – great stuff, created from requests from brace patients. Adios!

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Yoga and Scoliosis

Throughout this long road with Scoliosis, I have encountered a myriad of conflicting pieces of advice.  One that I’ve had a difficult time reconciling is the conflict between what my daughter’s Schroth therapist recommends and the use of yoga poses to help Scoliosis.  The Schroth website has an entire list of yoga poses they recommend staying away from (http://www.schrothmethod.com/about/yoga-for-scoliosis-menu).  The reasoning is solid – we don’t want to twist a spine in the direction that we are trying to twist away from.  Twisting in the direction of the rotation caused by the Scoliosis will make the Scoliosis worse.  I agree completely.  However, I’ve been practicing yoga for about 15 years and know the difference it has made in my life.  No, I don’t have Scoliosis, but I’ve had neck issues, back issues, foot issues, and terrible Sciatic pain during pregnancy.  Yoga saved me a lot of pain and continues to keep my body in top shape.  How could I reconcile my love of Yoga with my respect of the medical professionals and Schroth therapists I put my trust in?  During my research on this exact issue, I came across an article by Elise Browning Miller, who makes it her life’s work to bring yoga safely to Scoliosis patients.  Miss Miller has Scoliosis herself, and found, after many trials, that yoga was a way to help heal her body.  She states in an article she wrote for Yoga Journal that, “The goal of yoga practice should not be to straighten our backs; we must learn to accept them as they are, not deny them or judge them. Instead, we must work to understand our backs and to relate to them with sensitivity and awareness. Healing is much more than straightening a scoliosis, or curing a disease. It is learning to love and nurture ourselves and trust our inner knowing to guide us to a vibrant state of being.”  Now, this is a lady I can get on board with!   Seriously, I know that no matter WHAT treatment we do for my children, NOTHING will cure this disease for them.  They will always have some sort of curvature.  So, embracing this curvature was something I could really appreciate.

But, I am a technical person, so I wanted some nitty gritty answers to questions generated from the Schroth site – mainly the danger of back bends.  I sent an email to Elise Browning Miller and went ahead and Netflixed her DVD “Yoga for Scoliosis”.  The DVD came before the reply.  Basically, she had a very safe, systematic approach to doing Yoga with Scoliosis.  She required the viewer to know their spine – I figured I’d need to pull out my daughter’s X-ray to know which parts of the DVD to follow.  But, that was EXACTLY what I needed to reconcile this debate within me – she wasn’t suggesting that people with Scoliosis practice Yoga in the way a non- Scoliosis person would.  She wants the patient to know their spine, and do the twists, stretches, and bends the way that is most beneficial to their spine.  She never had people twist or bend in the direction of an already rotate spine.  So, I started to realize that this was a classic case of a perceived friction between two therapies, that, when researched further, were actually more in compliance with each other than most people realize.  In Schroth therapy, you need to know your spine.  Exercises are specific to de-rotate where needed.  The same holds true for Elise Browning Miller’s approach to Yoga for Scoliosis.  When I did get an email reply from Elise’s assistant, she confirmed this for me.  Her reply was this: ” You are absolutely right, the approach is similar in a lot of ways – bringing everything back to center and alignment and creating space in between the vertebrae and also strengthening muscles and creating sort of natural brace around the spine.  Elise considers backbends and twists very important for scoliosis. It’s all about the approach. Since there is a rotational element in scoliosis we want to de-rotate the spine with the twists, but since usually there is more than one curve and both will go opposite ways and will twists different ways, the approach to each will be different. Say, if the upper curve goes to the right and rotates to the right and back, then we do not want to twist in that area much to the right, but we do want to de-rotate that area when twisting to the left. And if there is a compensating curve in the lower back going to the left, the approach will be exactly opposite since the curve is twisting to the left and we want to de-rotate it. I hope this makes sense.  In regards to backbends, Elise stresses creating space in between the vertebrae before bending back and doing a supported backbend – blocks, chairs, bolsters, wall ropes – all of those can help in backbending with scoliosis. The range of bending might be smaller with a curved spine, but the backbends are still very beneficial for the spine.”  I think the moral here is, as we would only go to a knowledgeable Schroth therapist for Schroth Exercises, so should we only go to trained yoga instructors for Yoga in treating Scoliosis.  Elise Browning Miller has a directory on her website to find a certified Yoga for Scoliosis teacher in your area (http://www.yogaforscoliosis.com/YFS_Trainers.htm), although there still are not very many.  (On the same note, there are not many good, qualified Schroth therapists out there, either).  You can also check out the Yoga for Scoliosis site (www.yogaforscoliosis.com) to learn more.  But, as ALWAYS, the BEST thing you can do is to know your own body – know your curve patterns, get to know your imbalances and strengthen your leg and core muscles to help keep your body in balance.  And, I think that is good advice for anyone – not just those suffering from Scoliosis.  Take the time to take care of yourselves…and breathe deeply while you do it! Namaste!

Ringing in the New Year

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I last wrote, but, as with everyone’s lives, ours are full of holiday recovery, resolutions, back-to-school (and work) and all the rest. Of course, it’s also time to prepare for our quarterly visit to the Orthopedic Surgeon for both kids’ checkups and to plan our annual visit to Luke in Virginia to get a new brace for “C”. So, amongst the normal hubbub of this time of year, a family dealing with Scoliosis (or any other chronic condition) still has to forge ahead and plan for the well-being of the patients in the house.

One thing I decided to do was to stop trying to jam everything extra that we have to do in the time a “normal” family has. I’m blessed to work from home and to be able to plan my schedule, so I decided that for our once-monthly visits to the Natural Wellness and Pain Relief Centers (for chiropractic and Pettibon treatments), that we would take a half day off from school and make the journey in the less-frantic hours of the day. Last month we left after school, did the appointment, did two errands, and were back way beyond everyone’s bedtime. This month, I’m going to just write the entire second half of the day off as a “wellness day”. If you are dealing with a child (or two) with a chronic condition, I would recommend that you take the time you need (if possible) to incorporate the treatments you must go for in the most pleasant and relaxed way you can. My business may suffer a tiny bit by taking the time off, but I think it’ll be worth it to have a more pleasant day with my kids, even while going to the Doctor’s office.

Take some time this New Year to put first things first and, let the rest fall into place (or fall away) as your new priorities dictate.

Happy New Year everyone, and I’ll be back next week with my next topic – Yoga and Scolisosis.