Reversing Zara's Curve Progression with Conservative Care

After and before spine x-ray images
The x-ray of Zara's spine on the left, taken after several months of rigorous physical therapy, shows significant curve reduction from her initial x-rays.

The curve in Zara’s spine had been monitored over the years by her pediatrician but was never a cause for serious concern. However, by the time she was 13, the curvature was progressing rapidly enough that her doctor said she would need to wear a brace. Zara’s mother, Sabrina, was hopeful that a second opinion might provide them with alternatives to bracing. “I asked Zara’s physical therapist if she had any recommendations. She told us to see Dr. Michael Vitale at Columbia Pediatric Orthopedics and NewYork-Presbyterian.” 

After a thorough examination and review of Zara’s x-rays, Dr. Vitale utilized a risk calculation tool designed by the team at Columbia to help families make decisions based on the latest research and best practices in scoliosis care. He recommended that Zara pursue Schroth physical therapy for four months and re-assess to see if a brace was still required.

“So, we took the chance to see if therapy would work. Zara did rigorous PT for 4-5 months and when we returned, the curve went from 30 degrees to about 15 degrees,” said Sabrina. “The difference was striking on the x-rays, it brought me to tears. We consider it a miracle and finding someone like Dr. Vitale, who took that leap of faith to wait before bracing, was really amazing.” The family and Zara continue to monitor her spine closely. “We are so watchful, and never take her progress for granted. I know we are not out of the woods, but we hope things continue to progress the right way. We want to make sure Zara is headed in the right direction.”

Outside of being a straight-A student, Zara is a competitive hip hop dancer and also enjoys musical theater, singing, and playing the piano. “We were so dedicated to the PT that we installed a Schroth wall in our home. The last time I saw Dr. Vitale I thanked him because he was the only doctor who put his trust in alternative therapies and did not say surgery and bracing is the only way. He was informed and knew there were alternatives.”