This week I finally took my kids for their evaluation by an Anat Baniel Method / Feldenkrais Therapist. My first experience was last spring (Click here to read). I had a wonderful movement class – I left feeling very relaxed and elongated. I saw the real benefit in this therapy. So, I could not wait to get my kids in to see what might be able to be done about their Scoliosis. I pre-read an article online, written by Anat Baniel, called “Movement and learning based approach to working with Scoliosis” (Click here to read article). However, I did not realize before arriving the tough decision that would be presented to me: it’s the Movement Therapy or the Brace, but NOT BOTH! I was shocked. Every therapy we’ve participated in up to this point have been able to work together – I felt we had the best of all non-surgical worlds. So, I naturally thought that this therapy would be the same. But, the therapist, who I credit as being a wonderful, caring, professional, who has progressed herself through her work in this method from a near crippled existence to being able to function normally, told me that she wouldn’t move forward and work with my kids if they were braced. She claimed that bracing (as well as the ARC3D/Pettibon work we do) and the Anat Baniel/Feldenkrais/Movement Therapy work in opposition to each other. She claimed that my kids would be free after doing her therapy, that they would move uninhibited and that their brains would reprogram their bodies in how to move (and, ultimately, align) properly. She said that a brace “forces” the body in opposition to the way it wishes to move. And, that this “forcing” somehow programs the brain to try harder to move further in the direction we are pushing against. Interesting theory, but scary and, even though I have not read as much as I hope to on the subject (Anat’s Book, which I hope to read soon), the theory does not seem founded. For instance, in the article, Anat Baniel claims that Scoliosis is caused by muscles contracting on one side of the spine, causing the curvature. Well, I always stop and say “hmmm” when someone claims to know the cause of Idiopathic Scoliosis. The theory makes sense from a physics standpoint, but, to the best of my knowledge, a cause of Scoliosis has not been discovered, hence the term “idiopathic”. There are MANY theories, which will probably eventually turn into a known cause, but for now it is unknown. Also, there is not much talk of curve numbers (which is only ONE measurement of severity of Scoliosis, but not a measurement to be abandoned completely).
Back to the evaluation session: my son did ok with his “sample” hour of therapy – but, it was pretty tough for a rambunctious 7-year-old to lay and concentrate for so long. This surprised me, as the practitioner told me that the earlier the kids work on these skills, the better. But, it was tough for a young person to do what was entailed. My daughter loved it, thouh – she said “this is a therapy that I could really enjoy”. But, when she heard that she would have to “throw out” her brace, she looked panic-stricken. She probably had the same look that I did when I heard the news!
Well, after the appointment I felt truly conflicted. Not only did I have to make a choice between the two therapies, but if I stuck with bracing, I would be, according to this theory, doing the worst thing possible for my kids! Could it be that I’ve been off base this entire time? At one point in the session, the therapist looked at me a bit “knowingly” and said, “You also have a business surrounding bracing, right?” The tone was more sympathetic – as if I would soon realize that my entire last three years was exactly in opposition to what I should be doing and that I would promptly need to reform my life. But, I felt a bit on the defensive – after all, if I felt I needed to change direction for my kids, my business would not factor into it. We do what is best for our kids, period. So, I knew I would be able to make this decision independent of my business, but I felt overwhelmed and emotional, so I came home and laid it out for my husband. His response was quicker. He quickly pointed out all the potential holes in this therapy and just said, “It doesn’t seem like this is the therapy that OUR kids need right now.” Well, I thought that was incredibly well-put. It’s ok that this therapy is incredibly effective for many people with movement issues (including Scoliosis patients), but our kids don’t have movement issues. They are very comfortable, flexible, and capable. Their midsections are not very used to moving because they are braced, but it’s the same rigidity that will, in my opinion, keep their curves from getting worse in their fast-growing years. And, they love their braces. So, it wasn’t like we had unhappy kids on our hands that needed a change of pace. Also, quoting a couple case studies is not enough scientific proof to sway 2 Engineers from their methodology. And, throwing out the discussion of angles all together is not a comfort. Because, a person may be able to move freely and properly, but their spine may then decide to freely move in the direction you DON’T want. The therapist said that every Scoliosis patient that she’s heard of doing treatment does “better” afterward – but, “better” was only defined in terms of how well they can move, not in terms of angle improvement. Now, I’m all for thinking outside of the box, but I like to have some sort of measurement scale to work with. The most important thing that my husband said, though, was that it wasn’t right for them NOW. Maybe when they are out of their brace, if they need to re-educate their bodies in how to move, they might want to try it. Maybe if we get to a point where they are less mobile or lithe or if they suddenly are unable to tolerate their braces. But, not now – NOW they are healthy, happy, and in a routine that they can handle. Their curves are holding or improving. So, for NOW, we’ll stay the course.