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    Senior Member mamamax's Avatar
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    Question Emotions and the Human Spine

    I would like to know, what we know about this - if anything, in the published literature and/or personal experience.

    I find very little outside some mentions of hysterical scoliosis - which disappears when the subject is made to feel "safe." And this is in regards to children. Seems there is no published work regarding adults in this area.

    and yet ...

    I once knew a woman who said that her husbands spine curved when under stress. As for myself - I have noted that my condition is far more painful when under duress. I have also noted that when I am extremely happy - say in love - that my condition bothers me very little. I have been reminded of these things of late.

    What do we know about emotions and the human spine?

    I'm looking for some data points - but as always, never overlook the anecdotal.




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    Professional DrStitzel's Avatar
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    Default Psychological effects of scoliosis

    Hmmmm....I can't say I know too much about hysterical scoliosis, but I do have some research papers on the psychological effects of the condition.

    Here you go......I hope you find what your looking for.

    Consider it a Christmas present from me to you.


    I'm searching for the scoliosis treatment of the future!

    Toll-Free 1-866-627-3009 to schedule time/date for a free phone consult about your case.

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    Senior Member mamamax's Avatar
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    Thank you Dr. Stitzel. Will review these. You know, my dad passed away on Friday and I can vouch first hand for the fact that psychological distress does in fact have an impact upon the adult scolio spine. This should not be such a mystery - we are dealing with the central nervous system after all.

    The so called hysterical scoliosis has been little researched - Martha mentions it along with some references in her book. Probably not that good to tag it with hysterical - imagine the term will change as more becomes known. Maybe 100 years from now.



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    Senior Member mamamax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrStitzel View Post
    Hmmmm....I can't say I know too much about hysterical scoliosis, but I do have some research papers on the psychological effects of the condition.

    Here you go......I hope you find what your looking for.

    Consider it a Christmas present from me to you.
    ok - these look to be discussions regarding the psychological impact of the condition - or how the condition effects one psychologically. I'm looking for discussion of the effect of psychological distress upon the condition, or how does psychological distress worsen the condition.

    Still informative articles though - thanks!



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    Registered Member livingtwisted's Avatar
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    Hi Mamamax,

    This is a topic I'm very interested in -- both the effects of emotional stress on a scoliotic spine, as well as emotional stress as one possible factor in the development/progression of the curve.

    Have you seen this letter to the editor by Martha Hawes?...
    http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org...print/63/6/994

    It's definitely a different take on her improvement than I've seen in the more traditional articles.


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    I also find the study of psychosomatic behavior to be interesting. Assuming a neuromuscular cause as a primary factor for scoliotic development, it is interesting to think of the impacts on both curve progression and stabelity. With that said, with any type of emotional stressor comes a general fatigue of the body as it deals with emotive stress, as a result, it may feel as though your posture or curvature is worsening, because the system is fatigued. For instance many of my patients with low back pain have an increase in pain with emotional stressors or trauma. In some rare cases, I've also had patients whom we have not been able to find a physical cause for their pain patterns. In these cases, a good course of therapy provided the trick to help with their pain patterns.
    Emotional freedom technique is something that can easily be done to help with some of these traumatic challenges. In the future, I think brain based therapy techniques similar to this one http://www.thedenverchannel.com/heal...17/detail.html, may be utilized to deal with brain dominance patterns in scoliotic patients. I currently have one patient who is undergoing this type of treatment for learning challenges in conjunction with her scoliotic treatment, the results remain to be seen, on the impact of said treatment on her curvature.

    Last edited by Dr Kalla; 12-03-2010 at 08:35 AM.

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    Registered Member livingtwisted's Avatar
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    Very interesting! I hadn't heard of emotional freedom technique. I'm intrigued, but I imagine it would be more effective in cases of pain without any actual structural problems. But I'm a big believer that with something like scoliosis it is best to treat all aspects.

    This is reminding me of the work that Liz Koch has done. I've been aware of her for some time, but I've now added her CD to my xmas wish list Anyone have any experiences/opinions on her to share?

    And to go even farther out there (sorry if this isn't scientific enough for some) I remember reading a theory once that had to do with the personality of the AIS kid. This theory suggested that for whatever reason they tend to respond to stress or trauma by literally contorting inward in an attempt to hide or disappear. I believe it also had to do with the psoas and fight or flight response similar to Liz Koch's theory.

    I can't find it again and have no idea what the source was, but it was interesting enough to stick with me, maybe just because it resonated with me on a personal level. Anecdotally it's fairly common that AIS kids are shy and introspective, but I don't know of any studies that distinguish between personality prior to developing scoliosis vs shyness/ low self-esteem as a result of disfigurement. And I would never suggest that this alone would be enough to cause scoliosis -- just an interesting factor to add to the mix.


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    Hello Mehera;


    Thank you sincerely for sharing the Letter to the Editor written by Martha Hawes. I found it absolutely fascinating, and very enlightening. I have also had the utmost respect to Martha Hawes (I firmly believe her book is the best ever written on the topic of scoliosis, and when I talk about my Scoliosis Hero to my wife, she knows exactly who I am referring to), but after reading that letter, my admiration for all she has achieved increased tenfold.

    Again, thank you for sharing!


    Warmest Regards,
    Dr. Josh Woggon
    Director of Research, CLEAR Institute
    CLEAR Scoliosis Clinic of Dallas


  9. #9
    Senior Member mamamax's Avatar
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    Default Psychological Environmental Factor?

    Glad to find some company in this area of thought :-) While the postural component in scoliosis is fairly well known, the psychological component is still some pretty wide open territory (in regards to understanding psychological contribution to the condition vs the other way around).

    Thank you for posting the Martha reference Mehera, I had read it before and even filed it on my computer. The reference has become misplaced among all my filed literature, so I was glad to see it here - printed it out and have placed it in her book Scoliosis and the Human Spine.


    If I remember correctly, Martha began to experience reversal when she completely ceased intensive exercise and began working on only exercise to improve breathing. In between these two events she began psychological therapy for PSTD. Her picture documentation is quite telling, and profound.


    The connection between emotions and back pain is well discussed in relation the general population - not so much as a contributory factor in scoliosis. Given that the hysterical condition may completely resolve with therapy would seem to clearly indicate a possible contributory connection to IS.


    The references to hysterical scoliosis within the literature is sparse. There is no screening for the condition and no accurate understanding of its prevalence. Diagnosis of hysterical scoliosis, seems near accidental. Ever since hearing a story of a young woman (skelatally mature) whose condition (thought to be structural after bending xrays) resolved under anesthesia, and observing my own physical reactions during periods of great happiness contrasted against periods of great sadness, this has become a topic of immense interest to me.


    I have often wondered how psychological therapy such as Martha's may improve any given case (including my own). I see the major hurdle to further investigation being the overall cultural aversion to acknowledging that a psychological problem may exist and contribute to a physical condition. Which is pretty funny in light of findings which suggest the general population suffers with depression at epidemic levels. Psychological "problems" seem a part of life, and yet many prefer to avoid the recognition of something so obvious.


    What a young child may hear in the course of diagnosis can be, in and of itself, traumatically stressful with wide ranging ramifications that remain little understood. Not all are like our fair Martha who decided at the young age of 11, to defy medical prognosis. Many more, I suspect, experience a profound sadness of lasting influence. And, it is well recognized that emotions affect the central nervous system, which in turn has an influence on back muscles, which in turn has an affect on the spine itself.


    I suppose we could look at psychological influences as an environmental factor worth further exploration?


    Idiopathic, from the Latin meaning: we're idiots 'cause we can't figure out what's causing it (Dr. Gregory House, MD)

    bty - I'm not weird, I'm just a little multi-factorial

  10. #10
    Registered Member livingtwisted's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamamax View Post
    What a young child may hear in the course of diagnosis can be, in and of itself, traumatically stressful with wide ranging ramifications that remain little understood.
    Well there have definitely been studies done that show the psychological effects of scoliosis, which I imagine begins with diagnosis. But it brings up two questions for me...

    1. Can those psychological effects be considered a factor in progression? Which would cause a vicious cycle looking like this... diagnosis --> psychological distress --> progression --> psychological distress --> progression, etc.

    2. Is it possible that the cycle actually begins BEFORE diagnosis? Like this... psychological distress --> scoliosis triggered --> diagnosis --> psychological distress, etc.

    While it is unlikely or maybe even impossible to prove causation, if it was proven I would consider it 1 point for the alternative proactive treatment team vs. the traditional bracing and surgery team. Any treatment that allows the patient to be an active participant seems like it would be healthier for the psyche, as opposed to an authority figure (ortho surgeon) essentially telling a young person that they need to hide the way they look and going to extremes (high risk invasive surgery) to do that for them.

    Again, just my own rambling opinions with no evidence to back it up. But maybe it will spark something for someone...



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