|By Adam Reid|
When Craig and I were first becoming acquainted with our new MedX Core equipment back nearly 5 years ago, we were pretty confident that we could help those with lower back and/or neck pain. After all, through a great number of case studies and mountains of single-user anecdotal evidence, the equipment was known to have helped many people that thought there was no relief in sight for their discomfort. And in the time that we've been able to give people access to the MedX, almost every person that has been here has been able to improve their condition to some degree. How much exactly depends on a myriad of factors.
Something that stuck out in my mind regarding this equipment was when Craig mentioned having read about the MedX Torso Rotation being used to treat scoliosis. Not a lot of work in that area had been done, but there was one published study incorporating this machine's use with adolescent scoliosis patients, and with very positive results. While not the only cause of this condition, those that suffer from it always show asymmetric thoracic muscular development - and isolated strengthening of the muscles that rotate the torso (twist) had been shown to bring the weaker side up to par. Starting out, however, we didn't think that focusing on a relatively small market (scoliosis patients) vs. a large market (those suffering from lower back pain in general) would be beneficial, so this bit of information was stored for potential future use.
Now fast forward to early August 2010, where that information came in handy. We received a call from a woman, whose 16 year old daughter was suffering from scoliosis. Her curvature had been measured between 40-41-degrees in April 2010. The family was investigating alternative options for her treatment, as the braces required were too big and bulky to be comfortable, and surgery was looming in the coming years.
Having apparently stumbled upon the same study as Craig 4 years prior, the mother began a search for the nearest MedX Torso Rotation machine and discovered one in Hanover, MA. Unfortunately this meant a drive of nearly 90 minutes, but as they had decided to exhaust all options, it was worth a shot to make the weekly trip up to Back2Health.
When the client began training with us in mid-August, I was informed that her next check up would occur towards the end of the year (sometime in November), and any change in her curvature would be measured at that time. So we had several months' worth of exercise exposure to get her as strong as possible, while concurrently improving her flexibility.
The protocol was simple: One set of exercise to either side, starting with the weaker of the two. She was to go to muscular fatigue if possible on the weak side, or up to the point where I was satisfied with her effort and concerned that mechanics would break down. In most cases, this meant approximately 7-8 reps, and attempting to move slowly and smoothly. As with all novices, the 'control' aspect is difficult - and particularly with an exercise as demanding as the MedX Torso Rotation.
As expected, both strength and flexibility did increase, and quickly. I expected her to become stronger, even with the first few sessions being well within her means in order to gauge her reaction to the movement (e.g., muscular soreness, overall torso discomfort). I was pleasantly surprised however with improvements in her flexibility. At her first session, the client could barely twist far enough to allow the machine to lock into the very first setting. By her second session, she was moving to the 4th position (out of 6) with ease. And when queried, she commented on feeling much less 'tightness' in her upper body.
After a few weeks of exposure to only the MedX Torso Rotation, the decision to include additional training for her upper and lower body was made. It was felt that she would benefit in general from this, but also in particular her ability to 'hold onto' the Torso Rotation restraint pads would be improved. For those not familiar with it's use, this machine calls for one to be immobilized at the hips via knee and foot restraints, while also holding two large roller pads against either side of one's chest. The hip/leg restraint system is necessary to target the obliques and back muscles while the upper body restraint - when utilized correctly - will keep the user from reaching farther than one can twist at the midsection. The client was struggling to 'hold on' to these large pads during use as the load was increasing. Not the end of the world, but difficult to standardize performance from one workout to the next.
Due to her condition, however, it was discovered that any exercise that required her to have pressure placed on either the front or back of her ribcage was extremely uncomfortable and needed to be avoided. So we settled into a routine of about 6 exercises; 4 upper body, 2 lower body. And after a few weeks of this, her mother noted that the client's posture was improved, and she appeared to be more 'square' when she stood and sat. Certainly continued use of the Torso Rotation contributed to this, but so did general upper and lower body strength training.
Come late-November, she visited the doctor and her curvature was tested. The results, as we hoped, were positive: a 6-degree improvement (from approximately 40-degrees; 15% less curve). What little research that has been done, has shown up to 15-degrees of improvement in the initial year of MedX exposure. So 6-degrees, in only 3 months of fairly regular usage, would have to be considered a good sign. Even if improvements slow down - to be expected - she was 40% of the way to what is considered the largest change possible through only 25% of the year.
Besides these improvements, she has stopped regular physical therapy. As we suspected, relatively intense resistance training is the best physical therapy, as the body is forced to remodel itself to deal with whatever strain it encounters. Craig and I use caution, but still insist on pushing people beyond what they would normally do. Otherwise there is simply no reason for the body's system to adapt. Most PT settings unfortunately couple inferior equipment with a complete bastardization of exercise mechanics/principles and the result is less than adequate progress (i.e., rehab from injury). I'm sure not all are created equal, but I've seen 2 PT's test our MedX in a manner that made me cringe and wonder - worry, really - about what they recommended to their patients.
Our goal before she heads off to college in 18 months is simple: continue with regular exposure to the MedX Torso Rotation and complimentary exercise in an attempt to make her as strong as possible. As she becomes stronger, and develops more symmetrical musculature, she should continue to reduce the degree of her spinal curvature. She is interested in a few schools in Manhattan, which should allow her to continue to have access to MedX technology.