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'This has been like a godsend'

Scoliosis/vestibular therapy benefits Pearl man

Published on August 19, 2022
By Lee Catherine Hodges

John Day practices coordination in target tracking exercise with physical therapist Lana Bernier.

Physical therapist Amy Burge helps Day with stretching.

Day graduates from 8-week physical therapy program surrounded by Amy Burge and Lana Bernier.

As John Day browsed the booths at a Pearl Health Fair, his curved spine and shuffling steps caught the eye of Amy Burge.

As a physical therapist at Methodist Outpatient Therapy in Flowood, Burge recognized the telltale signs of scoliosis.

When Day took a seat in her booth to rest, she told the 68-year-old about a therapy that addresses the pain and physical limitations associated with the sideways curvature of his spine. Known as the Schroth Method for Scoliosis, the approach prioritizes muscle symmetry, breathing and posture awareness.

Diagnosed at 13, Day underwent pain-relieving surgery for scoliosis in 1975. Over time, his back pain had returned, so the Pearl resident quickly contacted his physician to get a prescription for the eight-week Schroth program.

Burge and several other therapists at Methodist are trained in the Schroth Method. She taught Day exercises to improve his core strength and flexibility as well as how to self-correct his posture.

“I can’t give him perfect posture, but I can give him a home program and the tools to make improvements,” said Burge.

During his sessions with Burge, Day noticed he was experiencing more dizziness than usual. He mentioned suffering from vertigo roughly a year prior and sometimes still felt wobbly while doing major movements. Burge referred Day to physical therapist Lana Bernier, who has a certification in vestibular rehabilitation.

The specialty focuses on the body’s balance system and begins with a thorough evaluation to identify causes of dizziness. Bernier then created a customized program to reduce the severity and frequency of Day’s dizzy spells.

They also worked on tracking exercises, where Day would follow a moving target with his eyes. Day worked to improve his eye to head coordination, which was a challenge considering his limited range of motion due to his curved spine. They even practiced moving to a beat to address dizzy symptoms Day experienced in his exercise classes at the senior center.

Bernier wishes more seniors like Day would be more specific about how they are feeling when it comes to dizziness and balance. Many times, she finds that senior citizens dismiss their symptoms as “just part of getting older,” when often times, vestibular rehab would greatly improve their quality of life.

“I wish more people knew when you have general dizziness or ‘fuzziness,’ you can find a home exercise routine to help diminish those symptoms,” said Bernier.

With improved posture and better balance, Day feels more sturdy and secure as he goes about his favorite activities like walking his property and checking his flowers. He is more mobile and plans to continue his exercises at home.

“I have more motivation after coming here to work on balance and strength because I know what happens when seniors fall. My wife is my motivator and is always saying, ‘Don’t you fall!’” said Day.

After teaching music for 27 years in the public school system in Kentucky and piano lessons since he was a teenager, Day has always known how to get a deep breath for musical purposes. It was not until he went to therapy that he learned how to use the muscles for his deep breath for stability. He is also remembering to breathe properly when he is focusing on a task like writing devotionals or short songs. As a tribute to his therapists, Day wrote a few songs about physical therapy. He confessed that he also wrote them to help him recall all of the information and lessons he learned at therapy.

“This has been like a godsend. I have learned a lot from Amy and Lana,” Day said.

Methodist Outpatient Therapy offers the Schroth Method for treating scoliosis at both the Flowood and Ridgeland locations. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call 601-936-8888.