When Mark Travers went to his local physiotherapy clinic to find help for his toddler son, he could never have guessed that his visit would be the catalyst for the introduction to Ireland of a new treatment which would benefit patients throughout the country.
The story begins when his son Jake was 15 months old and Mark's wife Sarah Feehan noticed something different about his spine – and, she recalls now, that his ribs seemed to be out of alignment.
Five or six months later, after a series of comprehensive tests and medical consultations, Jake was diagnosed with scoliosis, which is curvature of the spine, and, in August 2010, was fitted with a body cast.
"Jake would fall a lot," Sarah recalls. "His balance was very poor and his core muscles were weak, but he always seemed to take it in his stride," she recalls.
Mark started to research scoliosis and investigated the different treatments used for the condition.
About 18 months ago, Mark came across information about Schroth Therapy, a treatment for scoliosis that is very popular in Europe, but was at that stage virtually unknown in Ireland.
Mark visited the Louth Physiotherapy clinic in Dundalk, where the family lives, to see if staff there practised Schroth Therapy – they didn't, but it emerged, they were very open to learning about it.
Schroth Therapy focuses on educating patients about their posture and how to correct it – and then teaches them how to apply their postural changes to functional activities.
It works on the basis that scoliosis always involves asymmetrical muscle groups in the back and elsewhere – which in normal bodies are more evenly symmetrical.
Patients learn exercises which stretch tightened areas and strengthen weakened areas of the body.
The Schroth Method also focuses on educating patients how to breathe more effectively and properly ventilate the lungs.
Sarah McShane (27), a chartered physiotherapist at the clinic, had not heard about Schroth Therapy, but was intrigued by what Mark had to say about it, and immediately started to research it.
"It's very popular all over Europe. There was a lot of research on how this therapy worked and the benefits seemed to be very good," she recalls, adding that it has been used in mainland Europe for more than 40 years.
With the support of her boss, Sarah decided to train in Schroth Therapy and in July 2012, travelled to the tiny German village of Bad Soberheim, where the Schroth Therapy Centre of Excellence was located:
"Schroth therapy looks at the 'asymmetrics' in the body. A curve in the spine will affect the body in different ways," she explains.
"You might have an elevation of a shoulder or hip for example so that one shoulder/hip is higher than the other.
"It's about educating the client in how to attain a better posture, thus putting less pressure on certain muscles and on the spine itself."
This is done, she says, through a series of exercises which are very specific to individual clients, depending she explains, on the type of scoliosis they have and the way their condition is affecting them.
Health & Living