Scoliometer tracking, while geared toward practitioners, is also very beneficial to the entire scoli community, so read on and share with your practitioner.
What is a scoliometer and why should I use one?
The most beneficial thing in my scoli toolkit is a scoliometer because it tells a person’s scoliosis story. I use it almost daily on each of my scoli clients. As a practitioner, I use it before I begin a lesson, and it gives me immediate feedback on the state of my clients’ scoli so I know how to structure their individual session. I wanted all practitioners and scoli clients to have access to this immensely useful tool, so I created an app: The Scoliometer by Spiral Spine (iTunes, Android).
At the end of each client session, I use the scoliometer again so I can measure how well the client’s scoli may have responded to the lesson. If their ribcage rotation significantly decreased on the scoliometer (i.e. the numbers went down), that means the session was a success. If their rotation only decreased slightly, I know I have to give my client exercises to do at home, as I was unable to get their scoli to fully unwind.
Because I track every client’s back with a scoliometer before and after each session, I have years of data on them which helps me identify trends in their rotation. For example: one of my clients is currently in high school. We’ve noticed that when she’s having her period or when it’s exam time at school, her rotation will be three to four degrees higher than her norm. On the other hand, during school breaks or when she has done other therapies recently (like a yoga or Pilates class, an acupuncture session, or structural integration therapy) her rotation is two to three degrees less than her norm. By regularly measuring her at the beginning and end of every session I have a very good picture of her scoliosis story. I know where her scoli lives when it’s happy versus when it’s wound up. Furthermore, I know the types of situations and activities that are likely to make her scoli happy or unhappy.
Now, I need you to know that the goal isn’t to get the scoliometer reading down to zero. Once you’ve been tracking a client’s or you own scoli for a while, you’ll begin to see a numerical range that is the norm. They may come in with their major curve rotating eight or nine degrees and leave with their rotation at four or five degrees. So, if they come in with their rotation at 14 degrees one day, you’ll need to do some serious work on unwinding them during that lesson. You’ll also need to help them figure out what they did that week to determine the cause of the increased rotation, and keep a close eye on their scoli over the next few weeks to ensure this increased rotation doesn’t become their new norm.
Research shows that one’s Cobb Angle (measured by an x-ray, and technically how scoliosis is diagnosed and diagnostically tracked by a doctor) and vertebral rotation (which can be measured by a scoliometer) are positively correlated[i]. Meaning, if you measure a client’s back with your Scoliometer by Spiral Spine (iTunes, Android) before and after a session and notice a decrease in degree, you know your client’s scoliosis most likely got a little straighter. This is why the scoliometer is a great tool for you to have in your toolkit: it helps you make sure you are helping, and not hurting, your clients’ scoliosis.
You may be wondering how I keep track of all the measurements I take of my clients’ spines. I use this handy chart. Feel free to print it out for your scoli clients or yourself. My favorite part is the notes space which allows me or the client to keep track of anything unusual that may have caused a change in their normal readings that session or that week.
How do I use a scoliometer?
If you prefer a video demonstration, it can be found here (first video on the page).
- The person being measured will stand up straight with their back to the person doing the measuring.
- With the application open, the person measuring will hold the mobile device horizontally with their thumbs under the screen (the screen should be perpendicular to the floor facing the person doing the measuring).
- Wait until the phone is level and the scoliometer reading is at zero.
- Have the person measuring place their thumbs (with the device in hand) on either side of the spine beginning at the base of the neck—the reading should still be at zero.
- Have the person being measured slowly bend forward with their hands reaching toward the floor.
- The person with the mobile device will apply even pressure with their thumbs on either side of the spine and slowly let it move down the spine of the person being measured. As the phone moves down the spine, they should note the measurements on the scoliometer as they rise and fall. The highest number in each curve will be used as the degree of rotation.
[i] Morrison DG et al. Correlation between Cobb angle, spinous process angle (SPA) and apical vertebrae rotation (AVR) on postereoanterior radiographs in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS). Eur Spine J. 2015 Feb; 24(2):306-12