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  1. #1
    Professional DrStitzel's Avatar
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    Exclamation Yoga/Pilates for Scoliosis Myths

    3 Myths About Yoga/Pilates and Scoliosis

    ***Warning: Some yoga/Pilates for scoliosis poses may actually make the curve worse.***

    yoga-poses3.jpg

    Yoga/Pilates may have a positive effect on symptoms caused by scoliosis, but it will not have any significant impact on halting curve progression or reducing the scoliosis spine curvature. The scoliosis spine condition is primarily a neurological under-development (most likely due to a genetic pre-disposition) that results in a spinal curvature known as idiopathic scoliosis. Environmental influences (bio-mechanical, bio-chemical, and activity related) seem to be the primary “drivers” of scoliosis curve progression when combined with a significant genetic pre-disposition for idiopathic scoliosis.

    Yoga/Pilates and scoliosis myth number one: Many people hope yoga/Pilates will help treat or cure idiopathic scoliosis, because they mistakenly assume the condition is cause by weak. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be any farther from the truth.

    The muscles in scoliosis patients aren’t weak; they are mis-directed and uncoordinated in terms of postural control. Everyone’s postural control centers are located in the hind brain (brain stem area) and are controlled sub-consciously (automatically). This means while one can stand up straighter through voluntary effort, they don’t have direct control over how their spine orients to gravity (which is why all scoliosis films are taken with the spine in relation to gravitational orientation, sitting or standing). This means, voluntary movements and muscle contractions like those in yoga have little to no effect on the “automatic” spinal muscles that are actually pulling the bones in to a scoliosis spine.

    Yoga/Pilates and scoliosis myth number two: Stronger “core” muscles could in fact “hold” the spine straight while it grows. Based on the information from “yoga and scoliosis myth number one” in which the spinal muscles are actually part of the problem (and the solution….keep reading!), it becomes pretty clear that strengthening the core muscles with yoga/Pilates positions won’t help them (the automatic spinal muscles) “learn” how to hold the spine any straighter, and therefore strong core muscles won’t help halt scoliosis curve progression or reduce the curve.

    Yoga/Pilates and scoliosis myth number three: Yoga poses for scoliosis will help keep the curve more flexible. Curve flexibility in scoliosis is a very complex and poorly understood mechanism that appears to be primarily related to curve size and patient age. There are ways to bio-mechanically improve curve flexibility, but they are generally related to passive stretching exercises (done without patient effort) that primarily target the ligaments and discs on the inside part of the scoliosis spinal curve.

    Several studies have identified activities such as ballet, competitive swimming, and rhythmic gymnastics has having significantly higher risk of developing severe scoliosis. While it isn’t entirely clear what these groups all have in common, experts feel it may be related to the excessive and repeated hyper-extension of the thoracic spine (mid back). These repeated “back bends” have a flattening effect on the thoracic spine which leaves the mid back more vulnerable to the dorsal sheer forces seen in progressive scoliosis. Some yoga/Pilates for scoliosis poses re-produce the same thoracic back bends effect and could cause a patient with a thoracic spinal curvature to get worse. This isn’t to say scoliosis patients can’t participate in yoga/Pilates, nor receive benefit from such an activity, but they must avoid any poses that causes a flattening or hyper-extension (back bends) of the mid back.

    NOTE: The article is not fear mongering about Yoga. Incorrect yoga poses can be an environmental risk factor for scoliosis progression. The public has the right to know. To date, there is absolutely no reason what-so-ever to think or claim that voluntary movement exercises (yoga, SEAS, Schroth, ect) have any positive impact on altering the natural course of the scoliosis condition. Those are the facts according to our most recent understanding of idiopathic scoliosis, whether they fit into your current pro-yoga belief system or not. Sorry. This is why scoliosis rehab has to fundementally change and move towards a system that feeds the correct stimulus involuntarily into the automatic postural control centers for the brain. We primarily accomplish this by attaching small amounts of weight to the head, torso, pelvis which has the affect of telling the brain that the major center masses of the body are "off" and triggering the automatic postural correction centers in the brain stem to pull the spine more into alignment. Over the course of 4-6 months, the body will slowly learn this "new normal" and it will start to become permanent.

    Last edited by DrStitzel; 08-11-2011 at 01:15 PM.

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    Great Post Clayton!

    Many scoliosis patients call to tell me that they have been treating their scoliosis with yoga exercises, but often, despite the best intentions of their yoga instructors, they are making their scoliosis worse. Some of the exercises are exactly what the Schroth Method warns of. Advising the patients to stop their favorite activities such as ballet, competitive swimming, rhythmic gymnastics is very difficult especially when we do not know exactly how much effect these activities have on the patients' scoliosis. However, it is no secret that hyperextension of the thoracic spine will have negative effects on the scoliosis in creating a flat back. So I think it is up to the practitioner to examine the patient to determine the extent of the flat back and gauge the negative impact of the activities. On one hand, you do not wish to see them worsen their scoliosis with their sports or activities, but on the other hand, you want them to feel like a normal child or teen doing the things they love. In cases of extreme extension movements such as those in competitive gymnastics, I advise the parents to consider stopping this activity. In the case of ballet or swimming, I monitor my patients, and give them extra exercises that will help to correct their flat back in their thoracic spine.

    Dr. Jacob Kang MS DC CCEP
    Clear/Schroth/SEAS/Spinecor Trained
    www.torontoscoliosis.com

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    Professional DrStitzel's Avatar
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    Wow...I've been spending too much time on Facebook.....I keep looking for the "like" button. Thanks for your support Jacob.


    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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    Dr. Kang,
    My daughter is 14 and still at a Risser 0. She is a very serious ballet dancer. She dances about 20-25 hours per week. Back in March, her curve was 39 degrees and she had been wearing a boston brace for 3 years. I was worried because her back was rapidly progressing, so we decided to try something else. She is now wearing the LA brace and she did a 4-day treatment of Schroth. She does the Schroth exercises at home. Her upper curve is now 25 degrees and her lower curve is 22 degrees. She has been trying real hard to maintain her postural corrections when she isn't wearing her brace. Her motivation to wear the brace and do the exercises is ballet. She absolutely loves it. I worry because I'm not sure that the ballet is helping her back. Her doctor says that her back is "remarkably hypokyphotic". I believe that the ballet probably makes this worse. She would be devastated if she had to quit ballet. What exercises do you recommend that might help her with the hypokyphosis? Thanks!!


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    Hi Scolio1996,

    I often do not give recommendations online to someone I have not examined, but I guess I will make an exception since you have already had Schroth training.

    She can hug an exercise ball with her hands and knees on the floor creating an arch in her back. She can apply corrective breathing forcing all the air posterior.

    She can sit on a stool holding a stick with both hands and create an arch in her upper and mid back. She can apply the corrective breathing forcing all the air posterior.

    Both of these exercises start with the corrective posture creating kyphosis in her back.

    A patient of mine who is a dancer also had a flat back syndrome which made her scoliosis look very bad. She will not give up dancing either so she has been doing these exercises as well as other exercises. Her mother noticed that she could see vertebrae in her back that she couldn't see before, so hopefully this will help your daughter as well.

    Where did you do the 4 day Schroth training? You should be able to contact them and get some more exercises. They would have a more complete file on your daughter.

    Best of luck!

    Dr. Jacob Kang MS DC CCEP
    Clear/Schroth/SEAS/Spinecor Trained
    www.torontoscoliosis.com

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    We saw a Schroth therapist in Northern California. My daughter currently does the exercise with the ball. I was just curious what other exercises she could do that would help her.

    Thanks so much for your help!


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    Dr. Kang,
    My son, 15, was just diagnosed with Scoliosis. Is there a Schroth therapist in the NJ/NY area we can go see?


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    BlueSabre, have you researched anything on the CLEAR Institute and their bootcamp. They are experts, in the non surgical treatment of scoliosis. I would choose CLEAR over SCHROTH methods. I have had 3 surgeries, and a child with scoli. CLEAR Institute has an incredible treatment program. You can google them.


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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueSabre View Post
    Dr. Kang,
    My son, 15, was just diagnosed with Scoliosis. Is there a Schroth therapist in the NJ/NY area we can go see?
    You can find a list of all the certified therapists in the US by following this link: http://www.schroth-skoliosebehandlung.de/home_en.php and click on "International Schroth-physiotherapists" on the left hand menu. There are a few listed in New Jersey.


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    Thanks for that list livingtwisted.

    I'll see if I can make a wikipedia page of that info on this sites wiki section.

    Singapore chiropractor promoting awareness and sharing ideas to enhance scoliosis treatment.

    Blog: Singapore Chiropractor


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