Here is the article from the April 27th, 2016, Daily Camera. Find the original online post here.
“Can Alternative Therapies Improve Scoliosis?”
Conventional medicine says no, but at least one local says she’s living proof they can.
by Aimee Heckel, Staff Writer for Daily Camera
Kerry Manley, a professional dancer, was given two choices: wear a back brace or get surgery. Either way, she was done dancing.
The Boulder woman was 24 when she was diagnosed with scoliosis. Most of the 1 in 24 people who have scoliosis learn it in their teens, but Manley says she went undiagnosed for years — until the curve of her spine increased to the point that it was causing her serious back pain.
Scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, affects about 2 to 3 percent of the population, or about 6 to 9 million people in the country, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
Manley knew she had to do something, but she says she couldn’t swallow the options she was given, the path suggested by conventional medicine. The Scoliosis Research Society, American Medical Association and many medical professionals recommend treating scoliosis three ways: keep an eye on it, try to brace it if it gets worse, and — if it still gets worse — spinal fusion. The route depends on various factors, such as spinal maturity and the location of the curve.
Manley’s response: “Um, I’m not doing that.”
She searched for months before her physical therapist told her about a clinic not far away in Westminster that claimed to have a non-invasive way to improve the scoliosis curve. Although scoliosis cannot be cured, the clinic claimed it could be reduced.
The Rhino Scoliosis Center (rhinosc.com) has come under some criticism for its exercises and unique coach-based approach to scoliosis treatment. Some say the exercises could be dangerous, or that they simply don’t work.
That’s what motivates Jane Leavell, who runs the clinic.
“The reason I do what I do is I’ve been told I can’t,” she says. “That’s my motivating factor in life.”
The Scoliosis Research Society says that while physical therapy may help you appear more straight and improve breathing, there is little evidence that it does anything to stop the curve from getting worse. And it says that a chiropractor may help with short-term, acute pain, but chiropractic treatment doesn’t “effectively manage” chronic conditions.
While Leavell has a background in chiropractics and physical therapy, she says her exercises are different. They’re uniquely designed for scoliosis, she says.
For example, a client may hold a weight on one side, to make the muscles adjust to balance. Manley says she hung weights from her shoulders and hips and stood on an inflated disc, passively working the muscles around the spine. She says she also used a neck traction device that hung over a door.
Some of her equipment looks pretty odd.
“It’s something most people have never seen, it’s so bizarre looking,” Leavell says.
Some research is looking at the idea of using exercise to improve the condition.
A 2014 article in the Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders journal notes that scoliosis-specific exercise could reduce the “progression of severe curves” in adult idiopathic scoliosis.
And a 2014 study published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine found that performing a side plank for a few minutes every day reduced spinal curvature as much as 50 percent.
Beyond muscles, Leavell says she thinks there’s also a neurological component.
Unlike conventional medical teachings, which suggest that scoliosis may stem from a muscle imbalance, Leavell believes it stems from the posture centers of the brain. So her exercises not only help build muscle, but also built new neural pathways and awaken the parts of the brain that aren’t turned on, she says.
“Ultimately, the goal for me is to reduce scoliosis, which is considered generally impossible,” she says.
Leavell originally became interested in chiropractics after she injured her neck. As she improved, she says she decided to make a career out of it.
She continued her studies, until she became one of the founding members of an alternative scoliosis institute called Clear. In 2003, she left to start her own center, which she says is one of a kind. It incorporates the Clear methods (some of which look similar to what Leavell does) with a coaching angle that holds kids (instead of parents) accountable for their body’s well being.
“My technique has moved beyond Clear, and now we’re getting a name for ourselves,” Leavell says.
She has begun attracting clients from around the world and state, about 20 from Boulder.
She claims to be the only female practitioner in the world offering this alternative scoliosis treatment, which appeals to some, because most people with scoliosis are girls.
Although her treatments are not covered by insurance and can cost upwards of $5,000 for a weeklong intensive, Leavell claims a 95 percent success rate with her clients. She says she rarely sees a reduction in curvature of less than 20 percent over five days to a month.
One success story might be a coincidence, she says. But she claims to have more than 500 files of X-Rays showing improved curvature.
Leavell’s treatments have not been rigorously studied with comparisons to a control group, which is considered the gold standard for evidence in medicine.
Manley says she has seen impressive results from therapy.
After one week of intense therapy, Manley says her 39-degree curve shrunk down to 23 degrees and she gained a quarter-inch of height. After another shorter session, she brought the curve down to 19 degrees, and she says the improvement lasts, as long as she keeps up on her at-home exercises. The pain has dramatically improved, she says.
“It’s improved my confidence, that I’m not going to injure myself, that I can do anything I want to do, and there’s hope,” she says.
Today, Manley is dancing again, and even doing aerial dance. She is teaching at the new HoloWinc center, too, a “body positive” dance class. If she hadn’t tried an alternative solution, she says, she would no longer be sharing dance with others.
“Don’t settle for options that seem unreasonable to you,” Manley says.