Straight Talk: The Schroth Method

My Story: Part 8 – August 2012

I contacted Marissa, a Schroth-certified physical therapist, the day after I attended my first Curvy Girls meeting. We arranged an evaluation appointment for that Friday. Marissa told me to wear a sports bra, as she would be taking measurements (and photos), and told me to be prepared to be there for two hours.

I loved Marissa the moment I met her. She is experienced in neuro-developmental pediatric physical therapy and became one of the first C2-level-certified physical therapists in the U.S. for the three-dimensional treatment of scoliosis (Schroth Method) via the Barcelona Scoliosis Physiotherapy School. Side note: C1-level-certified physical therapists treat patients with idiopathic scoliosis; C2-level-certified physical therapists can also treat patients with painful and/or degenerative scoliosis. Marissa is so knowledgable in her field and I knew from the get-go that I was in good hands.

She explained to me what exactly the Schroth Method is. It began in Germany in 1921 when Katharina Schroth’s success in self-correcting her scoliosis gained attention. By the late 1930s, her method was recognized as the best conservative scoliosis treatment in Germany. Her daughter, Christa Lehnert-Schroth, trained physical therapist, also experienced the same successful outcome in reducing her scoliosis curves. Together, the mother-daughter duo began a physical therapy clinic in 1961 for scoliosis patients. Today, the Asklepios Katharina-Schroth Klinik accommodates 200 inpatients and has a long waiting list for its treatment courses.

Since 1991, Dr. Manuel Rigo’s clinic in Barcelona has practiced bracing and Schroth physical therapy for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). Both clinics have produced tremendous outcomes.  For example, of the 106 patients Dr. Rigo has braced (97 followed up), only six cases (5.6%) ultimately underwent spinal fusion.

The U.S. has been slow to follow Europe’s model. Dr. Rigo’s clinic in Barcelona offers training for physical therapists through a program called the Barcelona Scoliosis Physical Therapy School (BSPTS). A few American physical therapists who were trained at BSPTS have opened a clinic in Wisconsin to train more American physical therapists so that they can bring the Schroth Method back to their own practices in various states around the country.

After hearing about the history of Schroth, as well as its impressive patient statistics in Europe and the U.S., I felt so blessed to have been led to Marissa. However, I was also angry; angry that so few people know about this alternative treatment that can prevent a very serious, life-changing surgery.

Based on the severity of my curve, Marissa recommended I begin with at least three sessions/week of Schroth exercises with her colleague, Eva, a C1-level-certified physical therapist. She also gave me the option of a two-week intensive program; two hours/day, five days/week. I shared with Marissa my hopes to avoid surgery by practicing Schroth – that I had until September 4th (my pre-op appointment) to make a significant improvement. Marissa warned me that she could make no guarantee on the outcome Schroth would have on me. Because no two patients with scoliosis are alike, the results of Schroth are different for everyone, as well. I asked her if I would experience results if I practiced diligently every day, and Marissa explained that even extreme dedication to Schroth does not guarantee successful results. For example, two patients with the same degree of curvature could practice Schroth for the same amount of time every day and maybe only one would improve. Marissa did assure me, however, that practicing Schroth in the weeks leading up to my surgery would strengthen my core, which would be beneficial during recovery. Although I had been hoping to hear that Schroth was a miracle treatment that would reverse my scoliosis completely, I knew I had to try. The worst that could happen was that I would be stronger before my surgery – not a bad thing at all! In my heart of hearts, I wanted to give Schroth the best chance for success that I could, and eagerly signed up for the two-week intensive program.

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