Scoliosis: 5 Fundamentals of Scoliosis Treatment

Nov 16, 2020

The first step in learning how to stretch out or rehabilitate a specific condition is to understand what’s happening anatomically. Without that detailed knowledge, it’s difficult to understand the reasons behind particular movements and techniques. Which means it’s hard to stay motivated.

If you can see how or why something works, you’re much more likely to stick to it and therefore more likely to see results.

That’s why in this tutorial I want to talk about the way I approach scoliosis treatment and how and why this can help improve associated back pain and discomfort.

What impact does scoliosis have on the body?

Scoliosis causes curvature of the spine. It can be present from birth, or more usually appears during adolescence. Sometimes this may be as part of a condition such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy, but often the cause is unknown. Depending on where on the spine the curve occurs, and how severe it is, this may be visible, affecting a person’s appearance.

Curvature in the spine can take a variety of forms, it can be described as a ‘C’-shape with one bend to the left or the right, or an ‘S’-shape, where there is a curve at the top and the bottom. And it may involve some twisting of the vertebrae near the rib cage or pelvis too.  Levels of pain experienced will depend on the severity of the curve(s) as well as the degree of twisting, and may increase with age.

Approaching scoliosis exercises

There is a myth that scoliosis sufferers shouldn’t exercise vigorously or engage in some sports. In fact, keeping fit and healthy is vital to keeping back muscles strong. And while advice should be sought from a specialist, there is usually no reason not to stay active and work on strengthening the spine and core.

Of course, it’s not as simple as just deciding to straighten the spine and then doing it. This would be near impossible and would quickly lead to frustration and disappointment. Instead I teach my clients to focus on a series of small adjustments that they can do during everyday activities as well as exercises. Taking this one step at a time makes the whole thing much clearer and more achievable.

When describing these steps I talk about dividing the torso into three, imagining the pelvis and lower back as one section, the lower to mid back as one section and the upper back and neck as the final section. These should be stacked neatly on top of one another for healthy posture. We can use this idea to provide a simple representation for the impact of the curvature. Which in turn gives a quick understanding of which movements we need to encourage to counteract this.

You’ll find useful diagrams to explain this on the slide I share in the tutorial video above. If you struggle to picture the steps below, it’s well worth taking a look.

The fundamentals of scoliosis treatment

These steps are designed to build on top of one another systematically. You should work through from step one to five, consciously considering each movement. It will not be easy to begin with, but in time will serve as a mental checklist that you run through automatically.

  1. Actively elongate the trunk

Whether engaging in physical activity, doing specific strengthening exercises or simply moving around in daily life, it’s important to actively focus on elongating the spine, to strengthen and stretch out those long supporting muscles. Only then can we begin making the other small adjustments needed to bring the back into a more normal alignment.

  1. Bring weight to heels

It is not uncommon to find that scoliosis sufferers naturally hold their weight forward on their toes. Take step two to consciously ground your heels and shift your weight backwards.

  1. Level pelvis back to front

Building on step two, work on actively neutralising your pelvic position, levelling it from the back to the front. pulling the back of the pelvis down and the front up to soften the curve at the bottom of the spine and create a more neutral position. This will counteract any natural tendency to hyper extend the lumbar spine.

  1. Level hips and shoulders (left and right)

This step should be adjusted depending on your individual curve shape and position. Visualise your spine and actively move your hips and shoulders in the direction that will work in opposition to the curve. For example if you have an ‘S’-shaped curve that causes the top and bottom sections of your spine to curve to the left work to move your hips or shoulders gradually to the right to counter it.

  1. Level pelvis diagonally

Again, this depends on your own shape. But this is about correcting any twisting in your lumbar spine or pelvis so that everything lines up as it should. Work to correct your individual twist by bringing the left side forward and the right side back or vice versa, while also remembering the steps above.

 There’s no denying this takes a huge amount of focus and mental energy. You won’t be able to just spring into position. But by visualising the diagrams and making each directional adjustment step by step, the effort will pay off in terms of stronger healthier supporting muscles and a healthier posture.

This is not something to think about just when you’re exercising but at all times. Are you putting our spine into the position that it should be in? Yes, it can be difficult, but these five steps are the way to get you there.

Keep an eye out for subsequent posts where I’ll be talking about how to put these fundamentals into practice. But in the meantime, if you’d like tips and advice straight into your inbox,  sign up to my free posture newsletter.

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