Unlike normal folk, we who have scoliosis worry about different kinds of curves – how much our spine is curved, where it is curved, and what it is doing to our body. Not just the outward appearance but more importantly to how our internal organs are affected.
Sure we worry about our breasts but not if they are big enough, rather how asymmetrical they are. We don’t fret about our not so narrow waist, rather how uneven it is, Yes, we hate our hips not because they are not slim enough rather how one hip is higher than the other which in turn causes different leg lengths. Undoubtedly, all these spinal misalignments have cascading effects on other body parts both external and internal.
Spinal misalignments can disrupt the body’s natural biomechanics and functioning. Depending on how severe the curve(s) are, scoliosis can restrict motion, interfere with breathing, cause chronic pain, increase the risk of fracture, and displace/compress organs.
The Shame of Having A Curved Spine
Developing adolescent idiopathic scoliosis was particularly devastating. Just when my body was supposed to develop its shapely womanly curves, my spine began curving. Thus, totally distorting my body. Instead of blossoming into a swan, I slowly turned into the ugly duckling.
The shame of having a curved spine was additionally exacerbated by the secondary wounding I experienced. Instead of support and care, all I received was rage, judgment, contempt, and plain indifference.
Those teen years were a time of utter confusion and loneliness. Since 40 years ago information was not easily accessible. I felt like Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame. (Thank goodness for the internet, one does not feel alone now). It was only after I read that the actress and Lancôme model, Isabella Rossellini, also battled scoliosis that the freakish feeling dissipated a bit.
During that dark period, there were so many times I contemplated suicide. I just wanted to stop the unbearable pain, both emotional and physical Regardless of what I experienced, today, I am glad to be alive.
Why Does My Spine Curve
According to holistic healer Louise Hay, our spinal curvature is a symptom of unconscious emotional repressions/blocks. When we block how we feel, emotions get stuck in our body, particularly our spine causing subluxations or misalignments in our spinal vertebrae.
The spine is the pillar of a human being it represents our strength, our support. When people from our immediate environment physically, emotionally, or sexually abuse us when we are helpless children, little by little our self-esteem and security are destroyed. We subconsciously twist ourselves as a protective reflex and try and fit into the environment. This in turn causes our myofascial system to tighten causing that part of the spine to twist and move out of alignment.
From the feedback I received from numerous people all over the world, I know I am not wrong in my theory that ACEs cause scoliosis in most cases of idiopathic scoliosis.
Normal Spine S-Curve
The human vertebral column consists of 24 separate vertebrae, 7 cervical (neck), 12 thoracic (middle back), and 5 lumbar (lower back). Additionally, there are 5 fused vertebrae of the sacrum and 4 fused vertebrae that form the coccyx. A healthy spine has a natural ‘S’ shape consisting of three natural curves.
The curves of the spine work almost like a coiled spring, compressing to absorb shock while still allowing a full range of motion throughout the spinal column.
Scoliosis Spine – Where Does My Spine Curve
The abnormal sideways spinal curvature is called scoliosis. Curves can develop anywhere along the spine from the neck to the lower back. They are classified as per their location in the spine. In the neck (cervical scoliosis), the middle back (thoracic scoliosis), and the lower back (lumbar scoliosis).
When looking from behind, the curvature can be either dextro (right-sided) or levo ( left-sided). Dextroscoliosis usually occurs in the thoracic spine while levoscoliosis is relatively common in the lumbar spine. Scoliosis curves can be C-shaped(single curve), S-shaped(double curve), and double S-shaped curve (triple curve), occurring in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae.
Dextroscoliosis is the norm for thoracic, levoscoliosis is the norm for lumbar. An important point to note is that if someone has a thoracic levoscoliosis it is often a strong indicator of some serious underlying issue like Chiari malformations, spinal cord abnormalities, or a tumor in the spinal column. Furthermore, thoracic levoscoliosis is more life-threatening since the heart is located on the left side.
Commonly, most cases of scoliosis are diagnosed as thoracolumbar scoliosis. Wherein the right thoracic and left lumbar curve. But this is not really accurate.
Triple Curves – How The Body Makes Adjustments
Nonetheless, more often than not scoliosis is actually a triple curve. After all, scoliosis begins in the eyes. Occular misalignment has a domino effect on the entire body. Check out Posturologist, Anne Verpilot’s Instagram page @posturepro how misalignment in the eyes leads to postural instability.
Sadly, most radiologists tend to ignore the neck curve since x-rays are usually from the neck down. Only chiropractors, osteopaths, and craniosacral therapists tend to understand how subluxations of the top cervical, namely C1 ( atlas)-C2(axis) vertebrae triggers a chain of compensatory spinal adjustments.
Usually, when an unnatural curvature develops in one part of the spine, the body compensates by adding abnormal curves in other areas of the spine. Thus a cervical curve could lead to opposite side thoracic and another compensatory curve in the lumbar spine. The common curve pattern is left cervical ( our hypervigilant eyes tend to scan right-behind (pun intended)us, right thoracic and left lumbar. Check out the explanation below.
ScolioPilates: 3-Curve Scoliosis Explained
Cobb angle – Measuring Your Curve
Cobb angle, named after its inventor, American orthopedic surgeon John Robert Cobb. It is a tool to measure and classify scoliosis. Anything more than a 10° curve is considered to be scoliosis.
Treatment depends on the severity of the spinal curvature. Doctors only diagnose a child with ‘scoliosis’ if the curve is more than 10°. Curves are categorized as mild – curves from 11 – 25°, moderate – from 25-45°, or severe over 45°. The greater the angle, the more serious is the disease.
For mild to moderate an orthopedic doctor will generally prescribe a back brace to keep the spine from developing more of a curve. While for curves measuring 40° or more in adolescents, surgery is likely to be recommended.
According to the medical community, some of the most important predictors of long-term curve progression are when the curve developed – the younger you were greater the chance of it getting worse. The other critical factor is your gender – adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is not just more common in girls than in boys, it also progresses more aggressively in girls than boys. Girls are more than 7 times as likely to have their spinal curves progress to moderate or severe scoliosis.
One of the studies on adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) has shown that a marked increase in serum ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels and a decrease in serum leptin (satiety hormone) levels in AIS girls could be a risk factor. I don’t know if these studies also considered how women who experienced more stressors involving interpersonal tension had higher ghrelin and lower leptin levels.
Unfortunately, most studies don’t take into account the role stress plays in the development of a health condition. I know girls are more devasted to have scoliosis. Our body image is affected which affects our self-esteem. Scoliosis triggered me into a downward spiral of intense self-loathing, fear of being judged, and utter hopelessness. That feeling of being a kind of weirdo is something I am only now getting over.
The bottom line is curvature(s) can stabilize and not move or they can continue to progress as you age. And there are many factors that could contribute to its progression most importantly the level of stress.
Can The Curve Improve
Again, the scoliosis experts unequivocally state that once you are done with your skeletal growth i.e. the growth plates close, the scoliosis curve is fixed. It does not change. – it does not get worse neither does it get better. Well, according to my personal experience that is so not true.
If you are inactive, carry heavy loads, get pregnant your curve could get worse no matter what the doctor told you.
And yes, your curve can lessen -keep active, exercise (nothing strenuous). and reduce stress.
I like to keep it simple by incorporating easy movement patterns that entail using both sides of my body and also my mind. I also include the horse stance with Qui gong and twirling/spinning which is good for the vestibular system that helps in posture and balance. It also releases endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters.
Even just swinging or using a balance board or a wobble ball are good activities. Just incorporating these between periods of sitting can change our brain and body.
There are lots of stuff you can do without risking your back. Yoga and Pilates are most popular but there are many other options like swimming, walking (backward walking is better) running, etc. The point is to pick an activity that you like. There is no point hating your workout. Can you imagine the stress chemicals that are released just at the thought of doing something that you detest? Our mind plays a big role in our healing process.
Most importantly work at your pain-body – heal your past trauma. And try and avoid toxic people and situations in your current life.
Thoughts on The Side-Plank
According, to Dr.Loren Fishman, the proponent of side planking, the convex side of the curve is overstretched and therefore needs strengthening. But since muscles only pull, not push, doesn’t make sense that one should be strengthening the concave side, in an effort to pull the spine towards the centerline
Be careful with side planking. It’s a controversial topic and there is a lot of confusion about whether you should exercise the convex side where the hump or the concave side where it’s sunken or caved in. In my opinion, you cannot isolate individual body parts, the body is one interconnected system. All muscles need to be stretched and strengthened,
Scoliosis is complicated. Our muscles adapt differently to stabilize our spines. Both sides need to be exercised equally. Pick something you enjoy and do it regularly to stay active and flexible. That is the key to keeping scoliosis in check. To get exercises specific for your curve you need to work with an expert in body biomechanics.
No Longer Being Defined By My Curves
For most of my life, scoliosis monopolized my thoughts every waking moment of my life. was s[emt thinking about it When I was alone, I struggled with feelings of shame and hopelessness, When I went out, I felt such a lack of confidence and ugliness. I was sorely aware of my back-hump. My breathing felt constricted and the pain was ongoing. I don’t remember feeling comfortable in my body.
I hated my body, the body dysmorphia was real, it was not in my mind. Constantly, being hyper-aware of how deformed my body was undermined my self-esteem which in turn negatively affected my mental health.
It is only recently have I stopped worrying about my curves. I don’t really remember when it happened. The pivotal moment was when my son told me ‘you’re my supermom‘. At that moment my internal perception changed from being ‘not good enough, deformed to I am fine just as I am.
No longer, does scoliosis define how I see myself -ugly, and deformed. I see myself as worthy, good enough. That internal shift has changed how I stand up. The mind does affect the body. Healing scoliosis begins in the mind.
Image Source: Wikipedia, ResearchGate
The Psychology of the Body – Elliot Greene & Barbara Goodrich-Dunn
The Language of the Body by Alexander Lowen