CASE STUDY: Addressing Scoliosis and Back Pain with Ashley Kramer
About 3 months ago, I was contacted by Ashley Kramer via E mail. He was dealing with some major problems in his movement and that he was also in a great deal of pain. Coupled with that, he had a scoliosis he was trying to address. His bouts of pain were so bad at certain points that he would have to either use a walker or a wheelchair to get around. From what I was also told, Ashley had been going to varius forms of therapy for a period of about 30 years. This has seemed a fairly regular part of my career, so I was fairly confident I could help him. Then he came to FP...
Since I was busy organizing other things with Functional Patterns, I had decided to have one of my guys in Seattle to help. Then I saw his condition and new what kind of case Ashley was going to be. He was one of those people that come to you, and if you make one tiny mistake, a pain flare up would come back immediately. His spine, hips and ribcage would not move... In my career of working with people who had a scoliosis somewhat often, I never encountered a case this rigid. I then realized that what I knew at that point was not going to be enough to address his condition. I had to come up with things fast because he was traveling from new zealand for just 3 months. I decided to step in and see if I could help him out.
I never promised him anything anything other than my best effort. He promised me the same. From minute one, I took an approach with Ashley that I would have never taken before. Typically, I would attack fascia distortions with my elbow, set up his standing neutral position, then begin to take him through 6 phases of rotation until his structure would center itself. In most cases, this approach would work like a charm, in this I knew there was no way of doig this. His ribs were shifted so far laterally from his pelvis to a point I knew I had to change my approach. Fortunately, in the month prior my colleagues and I had slowly put together this concept called "chambering". This form of training filled so many gaps in my application and Ashley was going to be the first person I would use it on. It was a test to see if this new stuff really worked or not. I won't lie, I was very anxious working here because this was a very delicate condition.
We started by attacking contralateral frontal plane distortions with this new concept of chambering. Immediately I noticed a huge problem with Ashley. It appeared his right leg was much longer than the left. Whenever I would tell Ashley to bring his feet together, you would see a good 2 inch elevation of his right PSIS. This worried me quite a bit. If this was a bone malformation, there would not be much I could do. No matter how much I tried aligning his body. His right leg would always get in the way. I kept plugging away with chamber sequences, modifying them until I found some things that worked. I began to notice his body centralize at the pelvis. I have suspected that most leg length discrepancies are usually just an asymmetrical weight shift. Most of the time they are diagnosed externally without considering the factors of muscle activation creating this problem. In this case, his leg length discrepancy was starting to disappear. If you look at the before photo you can notice how Ashley posts on his left leg, while his right leg just hangs off to the side.
After about 2 or 3 weeks, his hip hike was close to being addressed. Now we needed to get him to rotate. Just like his spine would yell at me anytime I made a tiny wrong adjustment on the lateral systems, I had the same problems when we went transverse. I had to once again develope new techniques to make this work, because the old were too progressed. The anxiety trying to figure these things out was ruining my sleep. I so badly wanted these chambers to be the final frontier of corrective exercise and movement optimization overall. In a matter of a couple weeks, we unrotated his hips and his ribs. This is when Ashley's demeanor about everything took a turn for the better. I started noticing an enthusiasm in him that was great to see. This man was getting his life back.
The following weeks then had us approaching some of my older material along with new innovations. We addressed Ashley's inability to flex and extend his arms and legs when he walked. For this, I got him on the pulley machine doing our running man movements. We still had to fine tune corrections in the midst of this all because minor imbalances I could not account for were still popping up in his movement. Although there are still imbalances in his body, he is now able to move pretty much pain free. When we first put him on the treadmill, his back would not let him run. I had to cue him to run on the balls of his feet just so he could even perform the task. His max speed was 6.1 mph the first time. Every time his foot landed his lumbar would spasm. When we did the follow up about 11 weeks later, he hit a max speed of 10.8 mph. The only pain he said he felt when running were his glutes getting a massive amount of fatigue. I could not be happier with that kind of pain. Not only that, but picking things up for him required a tremendous effort. After all this training we did not focusing on lifting, most of those problems disappeared in his lifting abilities. Keep in mind Ashley spent much of his time doing deadlifts prior.
I am very fortunate that Ashley was so patient with me in resolving some of his problems. There would literally be 5 to 10 minute bouts where I would be standing there setting up angles on my pulleys and contemplating how I was going to load his body. We would spend sometimes more than have the session calculating than actually moving. Ashley was the ideal candidate to accomplish this task. He practiced everything he needed to and had no problems relinquishing who he was in the way he moved. As rigid as his body was when he came, his mind reflected not a single bit of that. What an awesome person Ashley was to have met. When I think of all the sleepless nights I had trying to solve this and the efforts he was putting in, it's hard not to get teary eyed. What an experience. Thank you for everything Ashley. These experiences don't come often and it's great to know I'll have a lifelong friend from this experience. This is only the beginning. I want 15 mph on that treadmill. By summer next year, you will be there!