A scoliosis is an S curve in the spine. How do you know if you have one?
- One shoulder blade might rise higher when you bend forwards.
- Bending to one side might be easier than the other side.
- If someone stands behind you they will see that your spine appears to straighten when you bend one way and looks more curved when you bend the other way.
- You might find that side of your rib cage feels tighter when you take a deep breath.
There are two types of scoliosis: structural or functional. There also different curves in the spine, for instance a C curve.
A structural curve is normally inherited and might start to appear in childhood, in particular at puberty when the bones and muscles are developing more rapidly. It might indicate a few underlying conditions such as Marfan syndrome. If you are unusually tall and have a scoliosis it would be best to talk with your doctor about being tested.
A functional scoliosis might develop after a trauma, or muscle imbalances through repeatedly using one side of the body more than the other. It might appear at puberty, particularly if the parents are ambitious for their children to excel, in sports for instance.
A C curve is most commonly caused by your pelvis and sacrum not being level. Your pelvic bones are like two large pulley wheels. Lots of muscles are attached to them. The pelvic bones or ischia, rock slightly when you walk or run. The sacrum sits in a wedge of ligaments between the pelvic bones. It takes the weight of your lumbar spine. Below it the coccyx sits between your buttock cheeks. It has a small hinge action and acts like a hammock for your pelvic floor muscles, in particular levator ani. If your sacrum becomes “stuck” between the ischia it will un-level them. That will cause a C curve or even scoliosis higher up the spine.
Medical reference sites sometimes use the word idiopathic to describe cause of the scoliosis. It simply means, we haven’t got a clue what causes it. So what can you do? The first stage is to level the pelvic bones and balance the muscle tension. Unfortunately I cannot easily describe how to do that yourself because it is my job to correct and level the sacrum and pelvis. Hopefully I can put together a short course on the key areas to address.
- Work on your breathing, doing your best to breathe in slowly opening your chest muscles.
- Work on your seated posture to avoid a bias. Try squeezing your hamstings one side at a time. Try sitting or standing as tall as you can and slowly rotating your upper body.
- Try bending forwards, feet wide apart and knees bent. Once your fingers touch the floor, slide them to one foot then the other one.
- Regular swimming and pilates have both proved helpful for friends. Make sure a teacher understand your limitations.
Question: Can a scoliosis be corrected so that my spine is straight again? If it is structural the answer is no. Even an operation to insert rods along the spine will only stop it getting more pronounced. If it is functional the answer is probably yes. The first question to answer is, how was it probably caused? In additon to the above you might realise that you have carried always fed or carried a child on the same hip, you might have carried a heavy school bag on the same shoulder for years. You might have always carried a lap top or holdall on the same shoulder. Eventually that drops one shoulder and puts a constant weight on the pelvic muscles.
I am working on exercises and will publish some soon for you.