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15 February 2011

Family hoping exercise offers alternative to spinal surgery for teenager

Alice Richardson, who lives in the west end of the city, was diagnosed with scoliosis after her family noticed a curvature of her spine.

Her dad John is a pharmacist who used to own a number of chemist shops in the city, including Morgan Tower, Albert Street and Hilltown. He is now trying to get as much help as possible for his daughter, introducing her to a specialist exercise programme, in a bid to avoid serious progression of the condition.
He is kitting out a room as a gym in the family home so that his daughter, who attends Kilgraston School at Bridge of Earn, can follow the exercise programme that he says will strengthen her back muscles and is already showing improvements in the curvature of her spine.

Mr Richardson said that when Alice was first diagnosed about two years ago, the curvature was not a major deformity but her family were warned the condition could progress to the extent she would require surgery to place metal rods in her back.

"We noticed that one of her hips was out of alignment and went to our GP," Mr Richardson said. "We were referred to Ninewells. They took an X-ray, then the consultant told us it was ideopathic adolescent scoliosis. That means they don't know what caused the curvature.

"The treatment from the NHS is to come back every six months for a check and if the condition has progressed to such an extent they would recommend surgery, she would have an operation to put metal rods in her back."


But Mr Richardson said he did his own research to try to find something to help Alice avoid ever getting to that stage. For the last 18 months she has been wearing a brace from her waist to her shoulders for 20 hours of every day.

She has undertaken an exercise programme developed by a young woman with the same condition who set up a company in England that runs courses for scoliosis sufferers.

"She went through what we are going through," Mr Richardson said. "She didn't fancy the prospect of surgery when she got older and went about finding alternatives which took her to Germany and elsewhere. She brought techniques back and incorporated them in to her clinic."

Alice completed a four-week intensive exercise course at a London clinic last week. That involved exercising six hours a day and she will now spend around 45 minutes a day doing the exercises at home and return to the clinic every few months to have the curvature checked and revise her exercises.

The condition has not prevented Alice from enjoying karate classes and participating in other sports, but she is selective in what she does.

"She can't do hockey because of the constant bending down and she doesn't do anything like horse riding or trampolining that would give the spine a jolt, but she swims a lot and lives a very full and active existence," Mr Richardson said.

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