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SALT LAKE CITY — What Anna Kemp lacks in the anatomy of her spine, she makes up for with a lot of backbone.
"It's just the emotional struggle of realizing I have a crooked spine that I have to keep trying to fix it," said Kemp, who lives in Layton.
She has scoliosis, an abnormality that causes the spine to curve sideways. "It was overwhelming," Kemp said.
But a new therapy at Shriners Hospitals for Children is helping. Based on the Schroth Method developed in Germany, patients use props targeting specific muscles and breathing techniques. According to a 2014 New York Times article on the Schroth Method, the therapy uses exercises, including stretching, strengthening and breathing techniques that counteract the rotation of spinal curvatures. Similar to Pilates, it strengthens the core.
"The exercises really strengthen those muscles to give them the strength to hold your posture in a corrected position," said Dr. Steve Santora with Shriners Hospitals for Children.
That's especially important for Kemp, who is ranked No. 1 in her division for archery and ranked 17th in the nation. "I would love to make the United States Archery Team," Kemp said, who's excelling in a sport where shooting straight is key. "The irony's really big there," Kemp said.
In archery, athletes stand with their feet, shoulder-width apart, weight even on both feet and bodies at a 90-degree angle. That's why keeping Kemp's spine as straight as possible helps her hit the target.
"You have to set your shoulder just right, bring your shoulder blades together at a certain point," said Bob Covington, USA Level 3 archery coach. "It's the barrel of the gun. If the barrel of the gun is straight and you shoot it, it's going to go straight."
Kemp says archery is therapeutic. "When I'm at the range, I feel like everything's simply right," she said.
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis affects 2 to 3 percent of children ages 10 to 16. It's more common in girls and can run in families. Traditionally, doctors treat it with bracing and surgery.
The new therapy focuses on adolescents at high risk for curve progression, as they enter their rapid growth spurt.
"In their minds, their middle is where their scoliosis has taken them," said Sonya Rees Mansfield, co-director of Therapy Services, Shriners Hospitals for Children. "And often times, their posture has led them to stand on one foot and one hip goes to the side."
The hope is that through therapy, Kemp won't need surgery. The therapy helps slow progression of a spine curve, improves respiratory function, overall posture and quality of life.
Kemp's goals are clearly in line.
"My coach always says that if a shot goes off right, there's no need to worry about where it goes," she said.
Doctors say early detection and treatment for scoliosis are key to a successful outcome.