Dr Stitzel

Scoliosis in a Successful Ballet Dancer

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by , 05-29-2009 at 06:16 PM (11666 Views)

'Dance; The Paradox of the Self-Effacing
Diva" A New York Times piece of the
successful ballerina Alexandra Ansanelli.
The human interest story published in the New York Times featuring Ms. Alexandra Ansanelli, principle dancer with the New York Ballet, illustrates the type of character, work ethic, and perseverance we all admire. She has overcome serious injury and a progressive disease, scoliosis, to ascend to the top of her field, while maintaining a healthy and refreshing perspective on her success.

I have worked with several high level ballet dancers in my professional career and the mere diagnosis of scoliosis is often the “kiss of death” to any consideration of a professional dancing career. Within the body of the article one specific sentence caught my eye more than any other. Alexandra spends 2 hours every day performing specific exercises to help control and maintain her current spinal curvature. Judging from her age, 23, she should have reached skeletal maturity and her risk of further progression shouldn’t exceed 1-3 degrees per year until she reaches menopause (research indicates a trend towards rapid curve progression during that turbulent transition in a woman’s life). Yet she has chosen to continue a pro-active approach towards the treatment of her disease. Like many things in Ms. Ansanelli’s life, she gets it. She understands and accepts that scoliosis is a life-long disease that requires a life-long commitment to treatment. Perhaps stories like Alexandra’s can help change the way we approach scoliosis treatment in the future. The current medical recommendation for scoliotic curvatures under 25 degrees is observation only, otherwise known as “watch & wait”. These guidelines have been in place for quite some time now and ground breaking work has been done in the field of early stage scoliosis intervention since that time. An aggressive, non-invasive, active rehabilitation based treatment program implemented in the earliest stages of scoliosis may be a patient’s only real hope in controlling and overcoming this disease.

Opportunities lost are opportunities wasted. An early intervention program for the treatment of scoliosis is long-overdue now within our reach.

I don’t know Ms. Ansanelli, but I’m sure she would agree with famous quote from Helen Keller; “A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.”

Clayton Stitzel DC
Co-Director, CLEAR Institute


  1. mustafabasri's Avatar

    I m from Malaysia. This is day 3 of knowing that my daughter may have scoliosis for tomorrow is the appointment with the specialist. This `findings' is a relief to me and wife
    for there are alternatives to surgery and the expected waiting. We will look into all posibilities before making any decision regarding the treatment needed but one thing for sure we will not just watch and wait. Thank you very much for starting an avenue where a new horizon of facing scoliosis. We will try to look into a group or making a group to educate/enhance knowledge of our society regarding scoliosis. thank you. Best wishes.
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