Feb 222009
Authors: Jessica Cline

Editor’s Note: Check out the video from CTV Channel 11 News below to see footage of Amerin’s treatment and an interview with her doctor.

When CSU student Courtney Amerin was 12-years-old, she was diagnosed with a curvature in her spine known as scoliosis, and for the first time in eight years, she is finally beginning to see improvement.

After she started treatment at the Fort Collins Spine Correction Center of the Rockies about six months ago, doctors straightened her spine significantly and the pain she once experienced, she said, has been significantly reduced.

“It’s amazing. In the past six months I have seen a huge improvement in my scoliosis when I have never seen any improvement ever before with anything I did,” Amerin said.

Scoliosis is an unnatural curvature of the spine that causes back pain, leg pain, muscle spasms, trouble breathing, digestive issues, and balance problems, local doctors said. It is not preventable and people are either born with it or it can suddenly develop from the time one is born through adulthood.

Doctors at the Spine Correction Center of the Rockies treated Amerin’s scoliosis using a method developed in 2006 by the Clear Institute, a national scoliosis treatment center.

While there are several treatments for scoliosis, including bracing and surgery, the Spine Center of the Rockies uses three steps to treat scoliosis — mix, fix, and set.

“The mix stage warms up the tissue, the fix stage is a gentle spinal manipulation that corrects the patient’s posture, and the set stage is when we retrain the brain to hold this new posture with the use of exercises and special equipment,” said Dr. Cardwell of the Spine Center of the Rockies.

The process takes a couple hours, two to three times a week.

Amerin’s treatment requires the help of nine different exercises and the use of machines, some of which warm the backs’ muscles and hold the spine in its

correct alignment.

She said that the procedures are not painful and that she enjoys her treatments because everyone in the office is very low- key and friendly.

“A couple of the machines are a little restrictive but none of it’s painful and it is way better than surgery,” she said.

Local chiropractors, who treat scoliosis patients daily, said the condition often goes untreated for some time because it is not diagnosed early.

“Often this is a mild change and may be first noticed by a friend or family member, or found on a routine school screening examination for scoliosis,” Dr. Mathew Ullom, a chiropractor at Rocky Mountain Chiro Care in Fort Collins, said.

“Those affected may notice that their clothes do not fit as they did previously or that pant legs are longer on one side than the other.”

About 4.5 percent of the population is affected by the condition, and while it is most common in adolescent girls, ages 10 to 18, boys can develop it as well.

Dr. Daniel Hersh, an employee of the Scoliosis Correction Center in Hartford, Conn., said that he believes that the number of people affected could be even larger than 4.5 percent because scoliosis can go undetected for years and is not always correctly diagnosed.

“Although the statistics have indicated 4.5 percent of the population suffers from scoliosis, I believe it may be as high as 10 percent because of much of it going undetected for years.”

He said while recently scoliosis is diagnosed more frequently, numerous cases still go undetected.

According to the Scoliosis Research Society, the number of youth in the U.S. with scoliosis is about 10 percent of the population, or about 1,000,000. And about a fourth of these kids will need medical attention.

“Girls that have [scoliosis] are very self conscious about activities they participate in so as not to draw attention to their deformity,” Dr. Ullom said./”Swimming is a big one for them, as well as prom and dances.”/

At one point in her treatment before starting at Spine Correction Center of the Rockies, Amerin was put in a brace that went from her neck to her hips, for a year.

“It was like a huge two-inch thick plastic corset,” Amerin said. “People made fun of it some, but I made the whole thing into a joke.”

She said that this is the only time she really felt different because of her condition but was comforted that otherwise no one can just look at her and tell she has scoliosis.

Other than the —daily aches and pains in her back, Amerin said that her life is not really affected by her condition, other than her inability to carry heavy objects and sweep.

Cardwell echoed Amerin’s sentiments saying that scoliosis patients enjoy a high quality of life without a great amount of limitation.

“There is nothing scoliosis patients can’t do,” Cardwell said. “It is mostly about the patients’ pain tolerance but we want them to continue doing what ever they enjoy doing.”

Staff Writer Jessica Cline can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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