Reese started having shoulder pain in April 2018. As her mom, who has been an occupational therapist/certified hand therapist for almost 20 years, I was sure it was due to her playing tennis many hours a day for many years.

I assumed her rotator cuff was inflamed and that she would need a break from tennis, as well as therapy to rehab her back. After 3 months of rest and therapy with no improvement, I knew something else must be happening.

In June of 2018, Reese was seen for her well visit and her pediatrician suggested we x-ray her back due to some unevenness observed when she bent over. I remember sneaking a peak as she was getting her x-ray a week later and my heart sank. There it was, clear as day. Scoliosis. The visible curve was large enough that my mind was racing as we walked back to the car. How could this curve be this big without me noticing it? How did I not attribute that to being a possible cause of her chronic shoulder pain?

Reese Sager
Initial X-Ray

Immediately I started googling and diving into Orthopedic and Physical Therapy Journals, using my own credentials to gain access. All that research pointed me to two conservative treatment options with promising results: Schroth Physical Therapy and Rigo Cheneau bracing. There was hope.

In Charlotte at that time there were no Physical Therapists certified in Schroth PT. The closest was Advance Physical Therapy in Chapel Hill, NC (www.advance-physicaltherapy.com) and I made an appointment with Lisa Mangino PT, DPT, PCS,C/NDT,PRC, SBC-2.

Reese and I spent 3 days in June of 2018 learning Schroth and PRI (Postural Restoration Institute) exercises. It was a lot to take in. Four months prior Reese was playing competitive tennis pain free, and she was ranked 15th in the nation for her age group. Now we were doing breathing exercises and discussing the need for full time scoliosis bracing. I wondered how my daughter could play a sport at such a high level with Scoliosis?

When Reese arrived for her first appointment with Lisa, she was in chronic shoulder pain and had not picked up a racket since April. When we left Lisa three days later, Reese was reporting it no longer hurt to put her hair up or wash her hair in the shower.

We texted her coach on the way home, and he suggested we meet the next morning to see if she can play. She has been playing tennis pain free ever since.

The next part of the equation was to schedule an appointment with Luke Stikeleather, the Chief Orthotist and founder of National Scoliosis Center (www.nationalscoliosiscenter.com).

The former president of SOSORT (Society on Scoliosis Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Treatment), Luke has been specializing in scoliosis and making the Rigo Cheneau brace for almost 30 years.

I knew I was lucky enough to have him with in driving distance. The experience was welcoming and positive. He allows the kids to have input on so much of the process, even offering different patterns for their brace.

I suggested to Reese the pink heart print, but she settled in on what I am calling the “tattoo graffiti” print. I am hoping this is not a foreshadow into her future tattoos!

Reese Sager
Out of brace X-ray

Luke emphasized that compliance with wearing the brace, in conjunction with Schroth Physical Therapy, would give her the best chance of stopping curve progression and maximizing the potential for the curve to permanently reduce.

He suggested wearing the brace for 18-22 hours a day. Reese was 11 years old, Risser 0 (skeletally immature with a lot of growth left) with curves of 25/25. Her potential for curve progression was high, nearly 100%, with no intervention.

Due to the lightness of this brace Reese weaned into it the first week and built up to full time wear within a few weeks. Today, she reports it no longer feels like she is even wearing a brace.

She has no issues wearing it for 20 hours a day, removing it only for tennis and showering (and an occasional pool day). We talk about this brace not being forever, just a moment in time to prevent surgery.

I knew I had to bring Schroth PT to Charlotte. Brittany Hunt is the Director of PT at UBYLEE Healthcare Group (www.ubylee.com) where we both work. Brittany agreed this was a program we needed to bring to Charlotte. In December of 2018 Brittany become certified in Schroth PT as a C1 therapist.

A year later she was certified as a C2 Schroth PT, and she has been helping many kids in our area prevent further progression of their curves. She has been working with Reese for over 3 years now and is a major part of her success.

Reese was diagnosed at 4’11” and has been on this protocol for 4 years. She is now 5’11” with curves of 20/10. Eleven inches of growth with only improvements!

I remember back to the day she was first diagnosed and how my heart sank, for a multitude of reasons.

Many healthcare professionals will say Scoliosis is a “wait and see” diagnosis. Their approach is to simply wait to see if surgery will be necessary. That is not always the case.

We used a “try and see” approach, and Reese’s results have been amazing.

Her journey with Scoliosis is not over, maybe it never will be. I know for today her body is healthier, stronger and pain free.

I know this is a result of the Schroth PT, Postural Restoration Institute Methodology and her Rigo Cheneau brace.