Exercise and Scoliosis
Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine, which frequently shows up as either an ‘S’ or a ‘C’ shape on x-ray. It is most often managed by observation, bracing or spinal surgery. Both the origin and degree of spinal curvature, as well as the demands each person has placed upon his or her spine (through injuries, stress, aging etc.) have an effect on the unique and often complex ways that scoliosis shows up in the body. That being said, research infers that employing a scoliosis specific exercise program may:
Reduce curvatures by up to 1/3
Decrease pain & increase lung capacity & chest expansion
Decrease progression of curvature
Help reduce the risks of bracing in small to medium sized curves
Significantly decrease the likelihood of spinal fusion surgery**
One of these scoliosis specific exercise modalities is known as the Schroth Method. It was developed by pioneering German physiotherapist Katharina Schroth (who herself had scoliosis) over years of treating people with varying degrees of scoliosis. Seeing the before and after pictures of clients treated at the Schroth clinic in Germany is quite remarkable, and Schroth techniques are now taught and used worldwide.
Pilates and Scoliosis
The Schroth-informed work I do with scoliosis often incorporates small wedges and other props that help to de-rotate and decompress the spine as it moves into a more neutral position. A series of Pilates-based exercises combined with specific breathing techniques are then used to strengthen the muscles necessary to return to and hold the body in its new alignment.
Consistent repetition is necessary to discourage the body from returning to the position it knows best, and clients are taught a number of exercises to take home with them to practice.
While options range from the development of a personal home program to private and small group training, a series of 3-5 one to one lessons to begin with is recommended. This enables each person to learn how to use the props and equipment to best serve the needs and complexities of his or her particular spine. I am also very happy to work alongside your physiotherapist/chiropractor or other health care practitioner as an integrated approach to managing scoliosis is often most effective.
I have an immense gratitude to have learned over the years from physiotherapist Dr. Suzanne Martin, scoliosis expert Karena Thek Lineback and countless clients, who are often amazed at the changes they can make with practice and conscious awareness.
**Otman, S., Kose, N., & Yakut, Y. (2005). The efficacy of Schroth's 3-dimensional exercise therapy in the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in Turkey. Saudi Medical Journal, 9, 1429-1435.