Scoliosis patients in Barbados and across the region can now better manage their condition with the help of a simple exercise programme thanks to Dr Tamisha Gittens, the only physiotherapist in the region to practice the Schroth method on scoliosis patients.
Scoliosis is generally viewed as a lateral curvature of the spine with an axial twist that causes a distortion of the ribs. Current research shows that idiopathic scoliosis is a multifaceted disease that compromises five of the body’s systems: digestive, hormonal, muscular, osseous (bones), and neurologic. It affects the entire skeletal system including the spine, ribs, and pelvis. It impacts upon the brain and central nervous system and affects the body’s hormonal and digestive systems. It can deplete the body’s nutritional resources and damage its major organs including the heart and lungs. Some factors that can cause scoliosis include cerebral palsy, birth defects, muscular dystrophy and Marfan syndrome.
Dr Tamisha Gittens told Health TODAY that even though the technique has only now been introduced to the Caribbean, it started in 1921 in Germany with Katharina Schroth.
“I had a patient with scoliosis and I recognised that my basic physiotherapy training could not help to stop this patient’s curve or reverse it. That is what led me to research how I could help. I found the Schroth best practice and they were eager to have me in the programme,” she said.
Gittens further explained, “Schroth is a curve specific exercises program that helps to stop the progression of the curve and in some cases reverse the curve… It is a nonsurgical 3D scoliosis rehabilitation technique which integrates specific exercises and corrective breathing to deflex and derotate the spine and ribcage to return to a more natural and physiological position.”
She said the programmes vary depending on the age and seriousness of the particular cases; on average, adults can take up to 12 hours, adolescents 19-20 hours and small curves can take six hours.
According to the latest figures, only 300 people have scoliosis in Barbados, and according to Gittens, those who have been treated have made significant progress.
“The goals are to stop curve progression, spinal stabilization, improve postural and cosmetic appearance, pain prevention management, improve pulmonary function, and improve chest expansion and patient empowerment,” Gittens explained.
One of Dr Gittens’ patients, 13-year-old Mikail Gittens, has been undergoing the treatment for six months. He told Health TODAY that since doing the treatment, he is almost able to live a normal life.
“I’m really enjoying it. When I started, I had a little pain but now I have no pain. I really enjoy the group sessions because it is more fun.”
However, 15-year-old Jala Edwards who was a bit shy, said she had only been doing the treatment for one month but she had already seen an improvement in her living standards.
“It is a bit of a challenge because you are not straight like everybody else and sometimes it is recognisable, and it could be painful, so I’m here to get it down before it becomes unfixable.”