Since November 2021 we have been taking a different approach to the exercise part of our bracing treatment programme for pectus carinatum and pectus excavatum. We wanted a more holistic approach that would encourage correct breathing, posture and stretching while complementing the bracing itself.
To do that, we have teamed up with Alva Yoga. LOC originally met Alva while treating her son for his pectus condition; Alva believed she could provide what we were looking for by tailoring Yoga classes specifically to help those with pectus deformities.
Alva runs two online classes a week, one a Flexibility class (Monday 7-8pm) and one a Loading class (Thursday 7-8pm). Your orthotist will advise you on which class to join when you decide to proceed with our non-surgical pectus bracing treatment programme.
The Flexibility class is focused on opening the shoulders and chest, building strength there as well as in the legs and back muscles. The objective is to lengthen the spine, increase flexibility and improve mobility, all of which will promote a better posture.
The Loading class is more about building up the chest muscles and includes strengthening exercises as well as flexibility ones.
For those who have registered, a recording of the class will be sent after the class which means that you can follow the class if you were not able to join ‘live’ for any reason and you can obviously repeat the class as often as you like during the week before the next class.
We recently conducted some research with parents of children who are in treatment and are taking part in the classes. The responses below were overwhelmingly positive.
We can actually see a physical difference in Florence’s chest when she has done a class - her pectus is reduced. They help build strength and flexibility too. Alva’s classes are excellent and such an important part of Florence’s treatment. The weekly contact is great. Thank you so much!
I have seen a difference in Joseph's posture - which is so essential to improving his condition. I think it helps expand his chest outwards. Joseph enjoys this Yoga class and I think it is helping him. It is great that you offer a service like this to help with exercise and posture. I think it is a great idea the class is recorded. Once Joseph has taken his exams this year, he should be able to do more of the classes than just the one extra he does at present, as he will have more time in the evening
The yoga classes are great for my son emotionally as he feels less alone with his condition as other children are taking the classes with him. The recordings make the sessions flexible to do extra practise whenever time allows. Alva is an excellent teacher for children.
We are really enjoying Alva’s classes. They are challenging but that is good. The relaxation is also fab!
I think Alva is an excellent teacher and her explanations are very clear, I do believe that the yoga is helping Theo with his flexibility
This depends on several factors; the position of the chest wall deformity, its severity, the flexibility of the chest, the kind of results wanting to be achieved and the age of the person undergoing treatment for pectus excavatum or pectus carinatum.
Early adolescence (roughly between the ages of 12-16 years old) – is an optimum age to start treatment, given that the chest is still maturing, and flexible, permanent correction is more easily achievable. Once bracing treatment is complete and a patient has stopped growing, the deformity will not return. For younger pectus patients, conservative bracing is used to keep a deformity from worsening and can help them to avoid surgery in later life.
For older pectus patients (between the ages of 20 to 30) results can be harder to achieve, as the costal cartilage hardens into the bone as a person matures. Over the years we have successfully treated many adults for both pectus excavatum and pectus carinatum and active adults with flexible chests can expect good results.
Again, this hugely depends on what a patient wants to achieve from treatment; whether that’s avoidance of surgery, improvement in the appearance of the chest shape, reduction in rib flaring etc. All these goals are taken into consideration during your first consultation. While there are no serious health risks of having pectus carinatum or excavatum – beyond the cosmetic – for many patients and parents, treatment outcomes involve improving confidence and self-esteem. During our 2018 Pectus Patient Survey, 92% of pectus carinatum patients surveyed said that treatment had a ‘major improvement’ or ‘an improvement’ on their social life.
You can read the results of our 2018 Pectus Patient Survey and quality of life questionnaire here.
Regular reviews are part of the treatment programme, preferably in clinic with one of our specialist orthotists, or via Skype consultations.
The number of appointments needed will vary from patient to patient but as a general rule, younger pectus patients who are growing at a faster rate will need to be seen more regularly for check-up appointments. This is to ensure that the brace fits well and is guiding the chest into the correct position as growth spurts occur. For other patients, this can be scaled back according to their individual needs and demands.
Regular appointments are beneficial for assessing progress, checking for signs of rubbing and determining whether another brace is needed. Appointments are also good for checking patient compliance to brace wearing and the breathing and exercise programme. At each appointment, we make time for patients to see our physiotherapist to fine-tune their exercise programme and check to see how a patient has been managing with the current programme.
We always advise coming in for appointments whenever you have any concerns about the brace or treatment programme, especially if a brace is rubbing or not fitting correctly. At the London Orthotic Consultancy, we have treated numerous international patients that have benefitted from specially designed braces that leave room to accommodate for growth and that can be adjusted remotely. Follow-up appointments for international patients are conducted via Skype.
This is a very common concern for patients considering treatment; in general, the dynamic chest compressor brace is easy to conceal if you are wearing a loose-fitting shirt for school or work. If you are wearing two chest braces – one for the main deformity and the other for rib flaring – then this may be more noticeable, especially under a t-shirt. Normally loose-fitting clothing will conceal the brace, though it’s likely it will be seen through tight-fitting clothes.
It is really important to continue exercising while going through bracing treatment. Exercise is fundamental to keeping the chest wall flexible. Our treatment programme incorporates a daily exercise routine of around 30-40 minutes of stretching using yoga poses, resistance bands, deep breathing exercises and general muscle stretches. Deep breathing exercises allow the lungs to expand against the chest wall, pushing it outwards.
Exercising with the brace on in the later stages of treatment can also make the chest correction more stable and permanent.
Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise to complement bracing treatment, as the body positions required to swim imitate the resistance band training designed to stretch the chest and increase its flexibility. Some swimming strokes are better for this than others, please check with your clinician. The brace should always be removed for contact sports and for swimming.
For most patients, one brace is often all that is needed to achieve a desired level of correction. They are each designed to last the duration of treatment and accommodate any growth that may occur in that time. Some patients have benefitted from having two braces – one to treat the main deformity and the other to treat rib flaring. For some pectus excavatum patients, having a brace apply pressure to the ribs – in addition to vacuum bell therapy – can greatly reduce the appearance of the depressed sternum area of the chest, forcing it upwards and outwards into a more corrective position.
If you are worried about your chest shape, or your child’s chest shape, then get in touch for a free Skype consultation with one of our pectus specialists who can assess their chest and discuss treatment options. We are always happy to communicate with local GPs, thoracic surgeons and consultants if a patient approaches us for bracing treatment after considering other options.
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