It’s rare when a world-class spine surgeon and internationally respected scoliosis expert is also an enthusiastic yoga practitioner. However, such is the case with Texas Back Institute’s Dr. Isador Lieberman. This high-energy physician puts all of his skills and knowledge into action during a special event about scoliosis.
For the second year, Dr. Lieberman, Texas Health Plano Scoliosis and Spine Tumor Center and Texas Back Institute are combining forces for “Stretch for Scoliosis,” a two-hour, fun-filled event to promote the National Scoliosis Awareness Month. Held at the Plano Sports Authority, which is located at 6500 Preston Meadow Drive and running from 9:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., this special workshop will teach parents and children about how core strength and flexibility can be improved.
Screening for Scoliosis
This event will also allow scoliosis specialists to screen adults and children for this very serious, however controllable spinal problem. Dr. Lieberman explains.
“For those who might not be aware it, scoliosis is a curvature of the spine where people are either bent forward or sideways,” he noted. “This, of course, leads to discomfort and limited mobility.”
“Over the years, we’ve been big advocates in trying to improve posture. As a surgeon, I can improve the posture of someone suffering from scoliosis, but there are many people who have unbalanced posture, with a spinal deformity – whether this situation is caused by scoliosis or other factors – who could benefit from an active program of posture exercises. This will help them regain their balance and improve their function.”
“Yoga, Pilates as well as general stretching all help with this condition and we designed this Stretch for Scoliosis program with this in mind,” he said. “This is our second year and we are trying to raise the awareness of how to keep one’s back healthy and maintain good posture using an active exercise program which includes yoga and Pilates type exercises that will allow someone with a spinal deformity to have a better quality of life.”
Scoliosis: More Than Just a Childhood Disease
Some believe scoliosis is limited to children. However, this is not the case.
“Scoliosis affects both children and adults equally,” Dr. Lieberman noted. “Scoliosis in children is typically secondary to a genetic issue. There is a scoliosis condition that develops in adult patients and most of the time this is related to age-related degenerative conditions.”
“There is also a very subtle type of scoliosis found in very young children that progresses over the years and continues into their adult years.”
“We deal with all age groups,” he said. “And all age groups can benefit from a good yoga, Pilates and stretching program to help them maintain fitness and balance in their spine.”
If Someone is Found to Have This Condition, Next Steps?
“A lot depends on what their symptoms are and how well they are functioning,” Dr. Lieberman said. “We worry about the progression of the curve for a number of reasons.”
“First, if these curves continue to progress, they are very unsightly. People do not want to be walking, hunched over or bent to one side. Secondly, as the disease progresses, the patients develop more mechanical fatiguing back pains. Just imagine trying to walk around each day, stooped forward. Even someone with a normal spine would develop that type of pain.”
“The third issue surrounding the progression of the disease relates to the spinal cord and the nerve roots. Eventually, with the age-related scoliosis condition, the spinal cord and nerve roots can be compressed and when this happens, the ‘signal’ from your brain to your big toe cannot travel efficiently. This causes what we call the radicular or sciatic type pain from the nerves being compressed.”
“These are the types of issues we ask about during the screenings,” he said. “If the patient is functioning well, we typically recommend an active exercise program. This is more of a preventative measure and to promote a healthy lifestyle and not to treat the curve itself.”
“If, on the other hand, the patient is developing symptoms of the progression – either back pain or nerve pain – then we investigate them further and determine if we should be doing anything over and above an active exercise program. This could include anything from medications to injections to minor surgical procedures all the way to major spinal surgery for reconstructions.”
Can Scoliosis be prevented?
In spite of the fact that medical science has known about scoliosis for hundreds of years, no single cause or directed treatment can prevent scoliosis. It is, however, a very controllable spinal condition.
“We are getting smarter about it,” Dr. Lieberman noted. “One day we will be able to arrest the degenerative process by stopping the age-related degeneration and the spine will stay straighter.”
“One day we are also going to unravel the genetic components of scoliosis in kids. Once we have that, we will be able to prevent the disease. Unfortunately, today we still don’t have those answers.”
If you would like to listen to the complete interview with Dr. Lieberman, click on SpineTalk below.