Although our spine has natural curves, sometimes unwanted curves show up. These abnormal curves are often referred to as scoliosis, and they can be caused by tight muscles or injury. For many people, their scoliosis is mild and can often be treated with exercise. Personally, I have used Pilates to improve scoliosis with myself and clients.
Most of us can remember scoliosis screening day at school. The nurse would separate the girls and boys and take us into the bathroom or nurse’s office. We would face away from her, rolling down and up as she traced and examined our spine. Then, she would mark our records.
I clearly remember the school nurse having me roll a few extra times and marking my chart for my mother to take me to the doctor. At his office, I rolled up and down again. He decided the curvature was minor and nothing to be alarmed about. Phew, I thought. As an active young person that loved to play outside and dance, I didn’t want the fate of wearing one of those horribly uncomfortable looking braces some of my friends had to wear.
Once I was in my early teens, my shirts began to twist on my body and one side of my rib cage stuck out further to the left as it shifted. As I continued dancing, a recurring knee injury began to plague me on my left side. Knee problems popped up when I started running in college. Weight lifting always seemed to leave me with back, neck and shoulder pain. Little did I know then that my issues were likely caused by my scoliosis. Even though I have a mild case, with repetitive motion and heavy loads, the postural imbalances set me up for muscular and joint pain.
What Is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a disorder of the spine that causes an abnormal curve. Curves can show up in a number of ways. They can be lateral (to the right or left), rotary, or outward. It’s also possible for them to occur in more than one area of the spine.
While doctors don’t know what causes scoliosis, they do know it affects more females than males. It can occur at birth or it can be caused by an injury, neuromuscular condition, or infection. Scoliosis most often occurs right before the growth spurt at the onset of puberty. Visible signs of scoliosis include uneven shoulders, a shoulder blade that is more prominent then the other, an uneven waist, or one hip higher than the other.
Some individuals with scoliosis experience back pain and muscle spams. While most scoliosis is mild and does not cause major issues, severe scoliosis can be disabling. In those severe cases, the rib cage begins to crush the chest cavity, causing heart and lung damage. A brace may not provide enough correction, and surgery may be required.
Pilates to Improve Scoliosis
I was lucky that my symptoms weren’t severe, and the answer for me was Pilates. After beginning a regular Pilates practice, my knee pain went away. Pilates allowed me to maintain strength without the pain of heavy lifting. I am able to rotate with greater flexibility and mobility to both sides. I have seen clients with much more severe scoliosis maintain improved posture, better alignment, greater ease of movement, and comfort in their bodies with regular Pilates practice.
Much research and exploration of treatment options is still being conducted. Most mild scoliosis today is treated with pain management techniques such as massage, acupuncture, and gentle chiropractic treatments. Exercises that balance posture, strengthen the core, and promote flexibly, such as Pilates and yoga are also encouraged. Scoliosis cannot be cured but it can be managed, maintained, and in some cases improved.
If you or someone you know is experiencing pain or discomfort from scoliosis, know there is relief! Contact The Bodysmith if you’re in the Springfield, Missouri area to learn more about how Pilates can help you.
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