Fascial biotensegrity is usually overlooked when treating scoliosis. The so-called experts in scoliosis still use crude methods based on archaic knowledge of spinal alignment. They see scoliosis as simply a curved spine that can be pushed into place. Like it is a displaced leg of a table.
Mechanical force is the standard method. One is given a back brace or told to do exercises like the side plank all in the belief that external pressure will push the errant spine into place. However, this rarely works if it ever does.
Because the spine is not just a block of vertebral discs kept in position by our musculature. Rather, it is encased in an interlayered intertwined web of fascial tissue which is innervated by numerous nerves & blood vessels crisscrossing through it.
Certified Anatomy Trains instructor, Meredith Stephens states that scoliosis is a triplanar condition – sagittal, coronal, and transverse(SCT). The sagittal (longitudinal) plane – divides the body into right and left sections. The coronal (vertical ) plane – divides the body into anterior and posterior (belly and back) sections. The transverse (axial) plane – separates the upper (superior) and lower (inferior) halves of the body.
In the development of idiopathic scoliosis individual vertebrae become wedged and rotated within the layers of fascial tissue. This in turn tightens all other parts of the body.
Development Of Idiopathic Scoliosis
When one experiences any kind of trauma the fascia tightens. It becomes hardened, dehydrated, and loses its elasticity. It becomes sticky and rigid.
In chronic stress, the body’s myofascial doesn’t get a chance to return to homeostasis. It remains tight and fixed. A growing child’s bones have to grow in the restrictive confines of the tightened fascia. Instead of growing straight, it twists into whatever space is available. Most scoliosis is not really idiopathic, this is the cause.
In my case, shamefully holding tight and repressing my emotions led to turning my gaze downward but peripherally hypervigilant. All the while holding my breath, namely in my right nostril ( thus developing a deviated septum). Not expressing my feelings meant holding my tongue, which led to tightening my neck. This led to my chest constriction. This caused compression and rotation of my ribs causing hunchback. Furthermore, a compensatory curve developed in my lumbar spine thus pulling my pelvis out of alignment which then caused leg length discrepancy (LLD). My left leg became shorter. This is the sad story of my scoliotic spine.
Why Forcefully Pushing The Spine Doesn’t Work
Forcefully pushing the spine where it is curved will only further aggravate the already impaired myofascial structure. It only makes the fascial tissue more inflamed causing more scar tissue or adhesions. Thus it may seem that the spine has moved or has stopped curving because the scar tissue is keeping the spine fixed but this temporary fix causes long-term consequences.
Scoliosis impacts the entire body starting from the eyes and head and ending at the pelvis. The earlier one works on the misalignment the easier it is to halt the progression of the curve.
This means, releasing trauma from our fascia should be the focal point. It is said, our issues get stuck in our tissues. Work on your trauma and release those stuck emotions. Inevitably, you will feel your myofascial tissues relaxing too.
Manipulating the spine alone will not solve the problem. One has to work to reorganize our fascial tensegrity structure and develop new neuromuscular patterns to realign the body.
The Meaning Of Tensegrity
The concept of tensegrity was coined by Buckminster Fuller, an American architect, and inventor of the geodesic dome. The principles of tensegrity are through interconnectedness, tension and compression of a structure are maintained.
Dr. Stephen Levin expanded this concept to include the living bodies, hence biotensegrity. The fascial system facilitates this interconnectedness. From head to toe, front to back, interior to exterior. It envelopes every major structure in the body, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, bones, and internal organs.
Each part of the entire body is held in place but connected to every other part via the fascia.
Biotensegrity now rebuts the age-old concept that the skeleton was the ‘frame upon which the soft tissue is draped’.
The Layers Of Fascia & Fascial Chains
There are three main types of fascia: superficial (under our skin), visceral (enveloping organs and glands), and deep. Deep fascia is a tough, fibrous connective tissue that surrounds our muscles. It contains many sensory receptors that communicate pain, proprioception, and various other feedback mechanisms to our brains.
As it envelopes the muscles, deep fascia forms myofascial chains that cross several joints and can reach the whole length of our body. Author of Anatomy Trains, Tom Myers, mapped out twelve myofascial chains running through the body. These lines wrap around muscles, separate muscle fibers, and muscles from bones, as well as connect them.
Superficial back line / Superficial dorsal line
This line connects and protects the entire rear side as a back shield, from underneath the foot to the top of the skull in two parts. From toes to knees and from the knees to the eyebrows.
Superficial front line
This line connects the entire front of the body from the feet to the sides of the skull in two parts. From toes to the pelvis and from the pelvis to the skull.
The lateral line frames both sides of the body from the foot’s center out and inside, it extends along the outside of the leg and thigh. It passes the torso in a zigzag pattern up over the shoulder and attaches close to the ear.
The spiral line creates a loop around the body in two opposite circles, to the right and left. It combines each side of the skull and crosses the thoracic spine back to the opposite shoulder. Then, it goes around the chest to the front to cross the navel and goes down to the hip.
Fascia Arm Lines
- Superficial Back Arm Line & Superficial Front Arm Line
- Deep Back Arm Line & Deep Front Arm Line
The functional lines emanate from the arm lines and cross the torso towards the opposite outer side of the pelvis and legs.
Deep front line
The deep front line includes the body’s myofascial “core”.
Fascial Biotensegrity and Idiopathic Scoliosis
All this intertwining means when any area of this fascia in between your feet and the head gets scarred/injured/inflamed due to any trauma (physical or emotional) your body compensates.
Nonetheless, one can never be sure really where exactly the fascial tissue first tightened and how that affected the spinal misalignment. Nonetheless, even if one were to pinpoint where the problem arose by the time scoliosis is detected quite some time has passed. Now we aren’t just having to consider fascia but all the other parts that were twisted and deformed.
As I heal, I have released that quite a bit of twisting occurred in my face. Undoing that misalignment is more difficult as the eyes, the nose, teeth, jaw, and of course, the brain has to re-align.
Working On Hypervigilance
Till today, I’ve still not gotten over this hypervigilant ocular response to my environment. Sadly, even my son innocently coming and standing behind me also triggers this response. I’m trying to work at it by immediately doing some tapping or outright stating my discomfort ‘don’t stand behind me.’
Nonetheless, just being aware of this adaptive patterning has been helpful. I take some action to immediately address it, instead of letting the emotion get stuck. A quick tap around my eyes or just shaking my body helps to move the emotional energy.
When our nervous system is in a state of constant hyperalert, our nervous system will be triggered to release acetylcholine ACh which causes our muscles to tense bracing for danger.
Totally eliminating this defense mechanism from my neurobiology involves psycho-neural retraining. Till then there will be a continuous drip-drip of acetylcholine along with other stress chemicals Which will keep my myofascial system tight and rigid.
Fascial Unwinding The Key To Healing Scoliosis
Since the fascial tissues are crisscrossed all along the body trying to forcefully stretch it or manually push it only causes it to tighten further. Our sensitive fascia is easily triggered into a stress response state. Imagine pushing at a tightened tissue, it doesn’t budge, and using force only further damages it. What fascia needs is to gently unwind from its protective armoring.
The first and most important step is finding safety. Living in an environment that feels safe has a huge impact on our autonomic nervous system. It moves us from tense sympathetic arousal to the parasympathetic state of rest and digest.
When our nervous system calms down our fascia relaxes. And that’s when the knots and tightness can slowly unwind.
Myofascial unwinding usually. happens without a person’s conscious effort. Our body has an innate ability to self-correct from physical distortions when we mentally let go of the frozen unresolved emotions in our bodies.
Healing Scoliosis – Helping Fascia Unwind
Healing scoliosis is a complicated process. One has to consider both the mind and body. Furthermore, forcefully stretching fascia can be counter-productive. Slow bends and springy-bouncy-joyful movements help the fascia be more fluid and flexible. Become child-like.
1) Safe Environment
Living in an environment that is relatively safe and supportive. However, feeling safe internally takes some time. The past does not easily release its aggressive grip on our minds. I find listening to sound-healing music and inspiring podcasts a good way to shift my locus of focus.
The fascia is made up of multiple layers with liquid in between called hyaluronan or hyaluronic acid(HA). It is what gives fascia viscoelastic properties. It allows you to smoothly move your body.
Drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water spread throughout the day ensures your fascia is hydrated enough to function properly. Ensure you get enough magnesium which helps in hyaluronic acid production.
Also, HA viscosity is largely dependent on the pH environment. An environment that is too acidic affects the fascia’s ability to retain water. Drink alkaline water. You don’t expensive gadgets to make it. Just drink water stored in a clay pot which turns water alkaline.
3) Fascia Foods & Fermented Gut-Friendly Foods
Fascia foods contain vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C and zinc, that are required for your body to make collagen – bone broth, yogurt, fish, red meat, eggs, shellfish, barrier, and cruciferous vegetables.
Vitamin C, magnesium, copper, and zinc are important for the formation of collagen fibers in connective tissue and fascia.
Fermented Foods/ Drinks
Having a healthy gut improves food absorption. It also leads to less inflammation in the body. Which means smoothly moving fascia.
Include homemade fermented veggies – cabbage, beets, carrots.
Instead of unnatural fizzy drinks like Coke, make your own fermented ginger or pineapple fizz.
For fascia to unwind it needs the right kind of movement – expansive and flowing. However, what is subscribed to heal scoliosis is forceful and contractive. The spine does not need to be strengthened, the myofascial surrounding the spine needs to be unwound and re-educated.
Movements that incorporate a variety of motions through wide ranges are best for fascia.
Qui gong, crawling, throwing, spinning, and sideways/diagonal running; any kind of primal movement that stretch and flex your feet, arms, shoulders, hips, and spine. Fluidity and flexibility are key for fascia tensegrity. Improving this will make you feel lighter, bouncier, and better coordinated.
The motion of yawning and stretching where you squeeze your muscles at the peak of the stretch and release. This resets muscles at the nervous system level.
Shaking With Your Tongue Out
I have combined shaking/tremoring with sticking the tongue out in a mocking gesture. Growing up in a dysfunctional there were so many occasions when I had to bite my tongue or else the consequences would have been devastating.
When I feel the past negative thought flitting through my mind I stick my tongue and do a body tremoring. And lo, the intense feeling dissipates. Moreover, the tongue is the rudder of the human body when it comes to posture. Sticking it out gives our bodies a nice internal stretch.
6) Improving Our Binocular Vision
Our eye muscles and spinal muscles are intricately connected through complex neuronal pathways. So, to heal scoliosis it makes sense to rewire the first line of faulty mechanism. We need to retrain and rewire our brain pathways to activate our muscular-skeletal system into alignment. Check out here how to improve vision in both eyes.
7) Releasing Feet Myofascia
Our feet play a crucial role in our posture and balance. The skin of our feet sends information to the brain via the skin’s mechanoreceptors. This information is then relayed to the brainstem and thalamus, and then to the somatosensory cortex which influences our movement and coordination. Walking barefoot inside and outside (sand/grass/mud are really good). Also helps with grounding.
An easy myofascial release is using rolling a ball under the feet.
Important Point To Keep In Mind
The fascia needs to be activated throughout the day. So instead of 1-hour exercise once a day. Have a 5-minute mini-exercise flexing session hourly. Every hour I take an exercise and water break. I do some crawling, jumping on my Balance ball, upside down.
A few basic primal movements done at regular intervals have more efficacy than exercising for longer periods but less often.
8) Mirror Neurons & Imagery
Our brains’ mirror neurons fire when we watch another person doing an action.
Just watching a person with good posture and grace can help you incorporate better movement patterns. Find your hero who you would like to emulate and watch their videos. My current favorite is watching Oleg’s dance videos. I can actually feel some part of my brain stem getting warm from just observing. It does help he is funny and makes me smile.
Visualizing the movement within the mind’s eye (either as a movement within the body or in space), without any conscious muscular effort, primes neural pathways and reprograms unnecessary and unwanted muscular tension. We allow our body’s unconscious intelligence to pave the way for the desired movement.
Of course, observing, visualizing, and physical practice combined can lead to more improvement in motor performance and strength than either physical or mental practice alone.
Developed by Eric N. Franklin a Swiss dancer, movement educators show you how to use imagery, touch, and movement exercises to improve your coordination and alignment.
Thoracolumbar fascia (TLF) Girdle
In most cases of idiopathic scoliosis, the primary structural curve is most often thoracic or thoracolumbar and less often in the lumbar. This critically affects the thoracolumbar fascia (TLF).
The TLF consists of several aponeurotic and fascial layers. It’s also thickly populated with nerve fibers, particularly mechanoreceptors which are key to sensing changes in our environment. Thus, playing an important role in posture, load transfer, and respiration.
Moreover, the TLF consists of multiple layers of crosshatched collagen fibers called aponeurosis’. Once twisted and deformed it takes a long time for each of the myriad layers to unravel and unglue.
You Cannot Force The Spine Into Position
Forcefully pushing the spine in place can only aggravate the problem. The discs are pushed into rigid fascia which can damage them and lead to later arthritis, bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and other myriad health issues.
One reader shared that her scoliosis was seemingly corrected through the use of a back brace. however, her upper body strength suffered as a result of that. The brace did not correct the misalignment neck upward.
Nevertheless, healing scoliosis is a never-ending process. The earlier you address it the better. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the luxury or knowledge of working on my scoliosis. Only in the last 4 years have I had the opportunity, money, and time to work on my trauma and address the spinal misalignment.
According to the somatic therapist and author of Your Body Speaks Its Mind, Stanley Keleman:
“our emotions and thoughts are intimately connected to our muscular gestures. If we organize our realities, we can disorganize and reorganize our muscular emotional pattern.”
There is no easy or quick solution. Neither is there one size fits all. Every person is unique as well as there are different types and variations of curves.
Have faith and keep at the daily practice there will be changes. However, don’t stress about when, or how it will only further tighten your fascia. Our posture is the embodiment of our thought patterns. Having an optimistic mindset can lead to compounding effects on our brain, body, and life.
Ref: Biotensegrity- The Mechanics of Fascia