Q: Dr. Dennis, what is your stance on (Back) Braces? How do you feel about scoliosis braces?
A: "That's where I probably disagree with the standard medical community, again, because at 20 degrees they want to start to put bracing on these kids.
Now, when you put a brace on you're immobilizing everything and once you immobilize muscles, muscles begin to become weaker; it's called Atrophy. So, a lot of times we'll put these braces on the kid and the average child has to wear it for two and a half years. Those muscles become so weak that's, I've seen it where they can't even stand when they take the braces off because they become so reliant upon it.
I think there are times when bracing is necessary, but you have to understand that the compliance rate with wearing a brace with the child is about 30%. Imagine the peer pressure of a fourteen-year-old girl wearing a brace to school every single day. I mean that's the kind of kid that people (other children might) avoid because they're different.
So, with the CLEAR scoliosis protocols, we don't have to use the brace. As I said there are some that are showing potential, but when you immobilize that spine, too, it starts to cause degeneration of the discs as well as atrophy of the muscles. So we try to avoid bracing as much as possible. A number of years ago I had a scoliosis patient came in, a young gentleman, and he was pretty big. I put his brace on and I wore it for an hour. There's no way I could wear it for 23 hours a day for two and a half years!
The average cost of wearing a brace is $30,000 a year, so after two and a half years that comes to $75,000 to wear a brace. That's a lot of money!"
Q: It really is. So, as you developed the CLEAR protocol, at what point did you feel comfortable saying “Okay I'm going against what the standard community is recommending, what the standard protocol is, and I'm going to get rid of the brace.” At what point did you decide that?
A: "It took me about 17 years really studying scoliosis to try to figure this thing out. And I had a lot of friends that helped with that. And right around 2004 we were seeing results that were probably 96-98 percent success rate. And that's when I started teaching the CLEAR Scoliosis Protocols to Parker University, in 2004."
Q: That’s amazing. So, then that leads me to the other end of the spectrum, which is surgery. For a lot of people, surgery seems to be the only option. There are not many people comfortable doing the research and figuring out other options on their own. What is your message about surgery and what do you say to those parents?
A: "Surgery is a really drastic decision to make, and it's a permanent decision. I can get a job and if I don't like that job, I can get a different job. I can get married and if I don't like that wife, I can get a different wife. I've been married for 42 years, okay. But the thing is, there is, certain decisions that we make in our lives that are permanent and surgery is one of those permanent decisions. And the thing is to make that, that decision with informed information, informed knowledge. You know, forty percent of the kids that have the scoliosis of surgery are classified as permanently handicapped for the rest of their life. There's about 50 percent of these scoliosis surgeries will fail and they have to be redone again. If you take someone with a scoliosis surgery and put them into a type of trauma, a car accident, a bad fall, the rods can break and they have to be redone again. They're more susceptible to injury. And you have to understand that the spine isn't just a bridge that connects the hips to the head. The spine is a machine, a spinal biomechanical machine that locomates the body, that allows the body to move freely. So it's like a car. If I have a car with six cylinders in it and it's not running properly, so I'm going to fuse four of the cylinders together. Is the car going to run better? It's not going to happen. So we take away the function when we do surgery and it's a, it's a very extreme surgery. I’ve seen it performed. They go through and remove a lot of the parts of the vertebra, the discs in between each vertebra, they're going to take bone from the pelvis and put it in between each vertebra. And they're not just doing it in one area as far as the spine goes. They're doing it through, say, from T2 all the way down to L3. And that's an extreme surgery. Very traumatic for the child and very difficult to create function in the future."
Q: How long would the recovery be after the surgery for scoliosis?
A: "Total recovery is about a year. Yeah, to resolve from that completely. You know, we've all had friends of ours that had, say lower back surgery or neck surgery. There they're only doing two units together. So here you're doing like twelve units together and it's much more. It's a very serious, well probably one of the most serious surgeries that they do. There are times, you know, don't get me wrong, when you have an extreme scoliosis, maybe seventy, eighty, ninety degrees and the only avenue left, then, is surgery. So there is a time for it, but it's always better to go and take the most conservative approach first, no matter what we do. And that includes scoliosis."
Q: How has the adoption been in the surgical community, as far as promoting the CLEAR method before surgery is picked as an option?
A: "Actually, it's going really well. There's an orthopedic surgeon in St. Cloud that just came here a couple years ago and he called me up and said “I'd like to get together and meet with you. I keep hearing about you.” So, I went over to his office and my son and I sat down with him and his associate and he said “look, you know, I really want to work together for the benefit of the patient. Now if you need a consultation you know, you send them to me. If I need a consultation on a patient I'll send them back over to you.” It's creating that togetherness and working together. It's really improved a lot over the years. I've been working with Dr. Ron Hanson down in Minneapolis and doing some injection therapy relative to Prolotherapy to help stabilize the spines in a number of scoliosis patients. There's a number of orthopedic surgeons that we work with, and I've actually had orthopedic surgeons, there are some cases that they do have to go to surgery. And what the orthopedic surgeon has done is recommend the CLEAR scoliosis protocols, because they find that by going through the mix, fix, set protocols, their surgery has a much better outcome. Because that spine has been loosened up and it's more corrective. There's a number of orthopedic surgeons in Pennsylvania and Florida that we've been working with in regard to that. It's really as a community. And so if there's a medical doctor that says “look, you know, you shouldn't be doing the CLEAR protocols, you've got to have the surgery.” If it's not a serious case, are they focused on the patient or are they focused on the finances?"