A girl from Southwater who has a condition causing her spine to curve has been given fresh hope of a future without surgery.
Hannah Palmer, 14, was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 11. The disorder - a sideways curving of the spine - is surprisingly common and can start at birth or later on in childhood.
Hannah’s parents first became concerned when they noticed Hannah’s shoulder blade and rib cage protruding on one side. The youngster’s life has been dramatically affected by the condition needing time off school for treatment and appointments.
Hannah said: “It’s been a bit of a hassle. It’s got in the way of a lot of things and made social occasions difficult on numerous occasions.”
She wears a brace which she has refitted each time she outgrows it. Luckily she has no pain unlike many patients.
Her mum Laura said: “She has never complained. She’s been brilliant about wearing her brace 23 hours a day.
“The NHS doesn’t have any other treatment apart from surgery. The school were very good and introduced us to a girl who had the condition and surgery.
“If you have the operation, it’s rods in your spine and fusion of your vertebrae. She’s been to see an alternative chiroprator as well. We have always tried to find an alternative.”
In their search for a non-surgical treatment, the family found the ScoliosisSOS clinic in London, where she underwent an intensive two-week course in Schroth exercises last month. Named after German physiotherapist Katharina Schroth they aim to correct the curve in the spine.
She now has equipment including wall bars at home and has seen a promising improvement just a month later.
Hannah said: “I can feel them working whilst I’m doing them. They have given me a sense of inspiration. Now I feel like I have got something to fight back.”
Laura added: “When you look at her, the shape of her back looks better. She hasn’t had an x-ray, but she’s gained a centimetre in height.
“It’s a lot of hard work. She does 45 minutes a day, but the more she does the better. She’s got to that for the rest of her life.”
A spokesman for the Scoliosis Assocation UK said the charity had heard mixed results about Schroth exercises and they were not offered on the NHS because there is no reliable evidence that it is effective long term.
For more information about scoliosis and for support go to the association’s website www.sauk.org.uk