If you are dealing with scoliosis or think you might be then you might be asking yourself if this is something that you will have to live with and is there anything you can do about it.
While there are many different severities of scoliosis one thing for sure is that your body doesn't work in isolation. There are many working systems that need to run functionally in order for you to move, breath, eat, etc.
Your muscles and bones are no different. Your muscles and bones are all interconnected and need to be looked at as a whole when thinking about addressing pains and dysfunctions of all kinds, especially scoliosis.
This article will briefly touch on what scoliosis is and what might be the causes for it. We will also take a quick look at traditional approaches to dealing with scoliosis and why it misses the mark when it comes to solving the issues that pop up with our bodies.
What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. This can hurt a person’s ability to perform basic tasks such as lifting, carrying objects, and evenly distributing body weight. This can also inhibit breathing due to one side of the ribcage being compressed and limiting the lungs’ ability to properly fill with oxygen. This article will discuss causes and traditional methods of treatment via scoliosis exercises, scoliosis braces, and surgical correction.
(FP HBS Nina Chou- Scoliosis client before)
What causes scoliosis?
While some studies have asked, “Is scoliosis genetic?” indicate hereditary causes, it is easily observed that imposed demand plays a huge part in the development of a scoliotic curve. That is, the things that we decide to do daily within our environment largely dictate what our body structure will look like.
A common example of this is a baseball pitcher. They are constantly throwing with the same arm repeatedly and, in a lot of cases, the pitcher’s follow-through has them falling off the mound to one side or the other. Due to this being an explosive movement, this tends to engrain strong muscle connections that promote imbalances. We are not saying that these are the only causes of scoliosis or that every pitcher has scoliosis. What we are saying is that over time, a pitcher’s body will begin to take on spirals and curvatures in the direction they throw leaving them with dysfunctional tensions that negatively impact the ability to perform basic tasks and can potentially worsen or even cause scoliosis type of tensions in their body. This goes for any repetitive motions. What you do most you get better at and if what you do daily is causing you to favor one side over the other this will lead to compensations and dysfunctional asymmetrical tension over time.
Scoliosis Brace and Surgical Correction
A scoliosis brace involves a temporary correction of poor alignment in the skeletal structure of the body by using a stiff plastic jacket that fits around the torso, from underneath the arms down to the hips. The problem with a scoliosis brace is that it does not consider the musculature that is responsible for maintaining the new position. Also, once the scoliosis brace is removed, the benefit is also removed. Surgical correction takes it a step further and provides an even greater disconnect within the body as a whole. An orthopedic surgeon aims to fuse the affected area of the spine so that the vertebrae heal into a single, solid bone. This is the same concept as taking your car to the mechanic for an alignment and they decide to weld your tires, wheel hub assembly, and tie rod ends together so that they move as one just because one of them was out of place. Each of these segments need a certain amount of independent movement within them. The bones in your body are no different.
(Photo Credit: Boston Children's Hospital)
Surgical correction and a scoliosis brace fail to consider two relevant points:
- If a person has a scoliotic curve to the left, for example, fusing the bones together would eliminate the ability to ever achieve lateral flexion of the spine to the left, right, forward or back in a way that allows the body to move optimally through space, such as picking up a briefcase from the ground beside you.
- Using a scoliosis brace forces the body to adapt and rely upon an outside object for support, thereby causing the muscles that would ordinarily support this region to atrophy over time due to non-use. Think of your sense of balance on a bicycle diminishing if you always ride with training wheels on and take them off before you've learned how to ride the bike.
While scoliosis treatment through traditional corrective exercises may have the best of intentions, the lack of results that point to a clear-defined solution is alarming. Having a person suffering from scoliosis perform generic movements and stretches without first assessing how they move or stand is simply ineffective. Our bodies tend to be tighter in some areas and looser in others. By starting an arbitrary strength or stretching program, you are just making the tight areas tighter and the loose areas even looser. We must first specifically assess the areas that need less tension or more activation.
A common "fix" to help address a scoliosis is to "strengthen the core." But what part of the core needs more activation? Is the problem in the superficial core such as the rectus abdominis or the deep core in the transverse abdominis? It’s most likely the case that the entire body needs to be retrained to correct the problem, in this case… scoliosis. While other methods chase symptoms, Functional Patterns produces results that address the whole system. Whether you’re a professional athlete looking to increase performance, someone just starting their fitness journey in the hopes of alleviating chronic pain or in this case someone looking searching for scoliosis self-care and asking yourself, "How can I even begin to know what exercises for scoliosis are right for me?,
Functional Patterns looks to solve problems at their root instead of at the symptom level.
The FP Way
Through Functional Patterns principles, we use cumulative tension across the entire system to maintain a natural, pain-free posture without the use of crutch-like scoliosis braces or invasive surgical techniques. This allows us to generate more consistent, lasting results than anyone else in the industry. By taking a systems approach where we consider how your whole entire body could be involved in why you might be dealing with a scoliosis, we can make sure you can better get to the root of your problems.