Dr. Baron Lonner understands why scoliosis patients aren’t typically enthusiastic about their bracing prescription. As professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Attending Spine Surgeon at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, he has spent his career focused on the physical and emotional impact of scoliosis on his patients.
“I enjoy talking to young people and seeing what they are interested in doing with their lives and what sports they play. It is really about their values and needs and wants and those of their families, and putting that all together in a treatment plan.
We want them to live to the fullest, to fulfil their dreams. We try to motivate them to get to it [treatment] and get on with their life. We’re always looking for new and better ways for achieving the goal to correct or prevent worsening of the curvature in scoliosis and thereby avoiding problems later in life.”
Dr. Lonner is one of the few surgeons in the world doing minimally-invasive scoliosis surgery. He is also director of Scoliosis and Spine Associates, a practice renowned for its innovative work with the very latest bracing technologies and a pioneering UNYQ Align™ provider.
Aiming to forego surgery might seem strange for an elite scoliosis surgeon to say, but Dr. Lonner is committed to providing the treatment option that best fits the patient’s individual need. Bracing, when done early before the curvature reaches 40 degrees, can prevent the need for surgery.
“Bracing today is far better than 50 years ago when wearing an immobilizing pelvis-to-neck brace was really a tough sentence. Fortunately during my career, we moved away from those braces to underarm braces,” he said. “But they were still bulky, heavy, and made with thick plastic and the patient feels cramped and sweaty. So we understand that. But we also know bracing still works for certain curves to stop them from progressing to surgery.”
The impact of scoliosis on an adolescent’s body image and self-esteem can be significant. But it can also cause life-long physical challenges.
“Untreated, scoliosis can have quite a severe impact on body image and self-esteem. But it can also cause breathing problems and back pain. I was drawn to Orthopaedic surgery when I recognized that it is a field where even the most highly-functional athlete who is otherwise healthy can benefit from treatment and return to their activity. I like the idea of restoring function that helps the patient maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. No where is this more true than in the treatment of adolescents with scoliosis.”
When Dr. Lonner was approached by UNYQ about the UNYQ Align brace, he naturally wanted to fully understand its correction ability.
“I admit I was a little skeptical at first that this lighter brace would really work with equivalent prevention of curve worsening. But our patient experience continues to show excellent corrections in the brace and the curves are holding well,” he said.
With all the emotions young scoliosis patients’ experience, it is easy to see why the motivational perspective of each member of the practice is so important.
Recently, Scoliosis and Spine Associates and UNYQ hosted a Community Day for teen scoliosis patients and their parents. The girls met with Alyson Gerber, actress/author of the book, Braced, and a former scoliosis patient. Allyson was able to share personal experiences, feelings and tips to empower the girls to embrace their scoliosis journey.
Dr. Lonner added, “I think it is important for patients to discuss their experiences and to know they are in control of their bodies. With bracing treatment, you [the patient] really have to buy into it and believe there is a reason to be committed to wearing it, that it will prevent the curve from getting worse. You have to decide it is worth it to you. That you really care about your body and therefore you make the decision to wear the brace.”
Dr. Lonner said his role during Community Day was educator and motivator. He gave a talk to the parents about the why behind scoliosis treatment, difficulties scoliosis may cause, especially as the individual moves through life, and the latest treatment options.
But his best – and recurring role – is that of cheer team member.
“Mostly, I said hello and encouraged the patients. We do a lot of single and double thumbs up in this practice.”
Thumbs up to you, Dr. Lonner. Two thumbs up!