- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
3 Ways to Treat Mild Scoliosis
Scoliosis affects about 2 to 3 people out of 100. For most people, it’s minor enough not to need attention, but even minor cases can cause problems.
What is Scoliosis?
This musculoskeletal disorder is an abnormal curve of the spine. Girls are more likely to suffer from scoliosis, which is usually diagnosed in childhood. Most cases of scoliosis remedy themselves as the individual grows into adulthood.
If moderate to severe cases aren’t properly addressed, the body will create secondary curves in the spine in an attempt to keep a proper equilibrium. When this happens, the person is said to have developed an S Curve, because their spine looks like the letter S.
Because the spine is the core of how we hold our bodies, you can spot scoliosis in someone by looking for one shoulder being higher than the other, uneven hips and uneven curves to the waist.
It can happen anywhere in the back, but some locations can cause more problems than others. Thoracic, or center back, curves can have an effect on heart and lung function, depending on which direction the curve goes.
When bad enough, people need to wear specialized back braces to prevent the curve for getting worse. Severe cases may require a type of surgery to hold the back straight with implanted rods and fused vertebrae.
My Crooked Back
My mild scoliosis was identified when I was a child. This particular curve is genetic, as both my mother and grandmother have something similar, as does one of my sisters. My primary curve is in my mid-upper back. Because of that, my left shoulder is higher than my right.
Over the years, a secondary curve formed in my neck, right where it meets my skull, so my head is always tilted slightly to the right. I only discovered that when I went to a chiropractor in an attempt to stop repeated migraines.
Sometimes, I also experience stabbing pain between my left shoulder blade and spine. That pain comes from the knotted muscles there, and can usually be resolved with massage. It usually happens when I’m under sustained stress, have had lasting breathing problems or had been doing some sort of physical labor. The curve also occasionally exacerbates my asthma.
Fortunately, it’s not severe enough to require surgery or a brace. However, I do still need to treat it in order to minimize pain and discomfort. Here are the three things that have helped me manage my symptoms.
When my migraines began to get frequent enough to disable me, I first went to a doctor to make sure there was nothing wrong with my eyes or brain before heading to the chiropractor.
The first thing he did was take my medical history. Then, he did a couple of tests to make sure my problems weren’t neurological. Once that possibility was eliminated, I underwent a series of x-rays, which showed the curve in my thoracic vertebrae and the secondary curve in my neck.
Once the problem was identified, I went two to three times a week for about a month, which was eventually reduced to bimonthly visits.
The office I frequented offered two primary methods of chiropractic care. One concentrated primarily on massaging the surrounding soft tissues until the bones naturally reset themselves. The other was the stereotypical manual adjustment, where the chiropractor adjusted the joint with little to no massage of surrounding tissues. Personally, I preferred the massage method, but both worked well.
You may also be referred to physical therapy to help you retrain your muscles, and will be sent home with exercises to do every day to retrain your body. Massage therapy is an excellent compliment to chiropractic care.
Like most people, I was very sore after the first several appointments. That’s simply because my muscles weren’t used to being manipulated in the way they were. If you experience any pain during the procedure, always let your chiropractor know right away so they can adjust their care accordingly.
After a month or so of treatment, I noticed marked improvements in my breathing and migraine frequency. The soreness began going away, and at the physical after starting therapy, I found I’d actually gained an inch in height!
Unfortunately, because chiropractic care still isn’t as accepted as mainstream medicine, insurance won’t always cover it. If your policy does cover it, check how many appointments it allows and work with your chiropractic office accordingly. Unfortunately, it can become expensive quickly.
You also need to be careful to select a chiropractor who is willing to work with you. Since your bones are being adjusted, there is always the possibility for accidental injury. Always communicate with your doctor openly about any pain or problems that arise so treatment can be moderated accordingly.
It’s always important to research the offices available before making an appointment. The doctors should be fully accredited, positive patient testimony is always a plus and don’t be afraid to find someone else if it doesn’t work out. Like all medical treatments, chiropractic care does have its share of risks, and it’s always smart to be as safe as possible.
Over time, I’ve discovered how useful yoga is in helping maintain healthy posture and muscle tone. When I began doing it on a near daily basis, I discovered that I no longer needed to go to the chiropractor, because when I started slipping out of alignment, the poses put my bones back in their proper places.
There are many different kinds of Yoga available, but the most common form in the west is Hatha Yoga, which concentrates more on physical conditioning than spiritual growth. It’s ideal to find a beginners class in order to start your practice, but the National Scoliosis Foundation suggests a few beginner poses to get you started.
Although classes can be expensive, you may be able to find affordable yoga courses at your local YMCA, community bulletin board or fitness center. Some health insurance companies may also include a wellness program which could offer discounts.
Yoga can be intimidating at first, especially if you look at some of the more advanced poses, but if you do decide to give it a try, remember these important points:
Simple Yoga for Scoliosis
We all start somewhere, and that includes starting with yoga. Flexibility naturally declines with age, unless you consciously work to maintain it. Like all things, the more you practice, the better, and more flexible, you’ll get.
Listen to Your Body
If it hurts, ease up on the pose. As with any other form of stretching, you shouldn’t push yourself to the point of pain. At the most, you should feel a pull, but the point is to gradually increase your strength and flexibility, not hurt yourself.
If your body reacts strangely to a pose you’ve practiced before, it could be a signal of an infection or something brewing. For instance, before the shingles blisters showed up when I grew ill in January, I had a muscle cramp along the infected nerve path when doing a pose I’d done several times before that took my breath away.
Follow Your Instincts
Not all yoga classes work for everyone. You may not like the instructor, or that particular type of yoga may not mesh with your personal beliefs. Personally, I refuse to go anywhere near hot room yoga, because I don’t think I’d enjoy it, but other people love it. To each their own.
I have taken a number of classes before, and they are useful. Generally, I prefer to do yoga in the privacy of my own home. I still listen to my body, even though my flexibility and strength has improved dramatically. My breathing has also improved, thanks to the deep breathing exercises that come with the practice.
My main problem is in remembering pose sequence, which is why I like using cards from my 15 Minute Yoga Box. Sometimes, I use videos on YouTube or attend the occasional class.
This is what I use to help remind me of pose sequences. I've found it very easy to understand and follow.
Back Strengthening Exercises
When I was younger, I was fortunate to be involved with the martial arts Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan. Those arts worked wonderfully to strengthen my entire body and improve my general posture. They also helped with the mental and emotional aspects of my life.
I’ve also been able to study a little QiGong, practice Pilates and use work out machines at a local gym. When done correctly, all of these things can strengthen your back. No one thing works for everyone, so it’s always a good idea to experiment.
Right now, I run when the weather permits in addition to my yoga. Running may be too high impact for people with knee, hip and ankle problems, but I’ve found the activity has helped strengthen my lower back and keep my upper back strong, as well.
As with yoga, it’s best to be gentle with yourself whenever you start any type of physical activity. It’s very easy to hurt yourself if you push too hard, too fast. When that happens, you’ll only need to start all over again after your recovery period.
There are always more options to help you with pain management. These have served me well, but you may find something that works even better to manage your symptoms.
Do you have scoliosis?
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