Emilie Peck is a freelance writer and nontraditional student. She's successfully managed her scoliosis with these methods for over a decade.
What Is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a musculoskeletal disorder caused by an abnormal curve of the spine. It is usually diagnosed in childhood, and girls are more likely to suffer from the disorder. Most cases of scoliosis remedy themselves as the individual grows into adulthood.
The body will create secondary curves in the spine in an attempt to keep a proper equilibrium if moderate to severe cases of the disorder aren't properly addressed. When this happens, the person is said to have developed an S-Curve because their spine looks like the letter S.
Since the spine is at the core of how we hold our bodies, you can spot scoliosis in someone by checking for one shoulder being higher than the other, uneven hips and uneven curves to the waist.
Scoliosis can appear anywhere along 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 from getting worse. Severe cases may require surgery to hold the back straight with implanted rods and fused vertebrae.
My Crooked Back and Mild Scoliosis
My mild scoliosis was identified when I was a child. This particular curve is genetic as both my mother and grandmother as well as one of my sisters have something similar. My primary curve is in my mid-upper back. My left shoulder is higher than my right as a result.
A secondary curve formed in my neck right where it meets my skull over the years, so my head is always tilted slightly to the right. I only discovered this 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. The pain comes from the knotted muscles there and can usually be resolved with a massage. This 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.
Chiropractic Care and Physical Therapy
I first went to a doctor when my migraines began to occur frequently enough to disable me. I wanted to make sure that there was nothing wrong with my eyes or brain before heading to the chiropractor.
The doctor began by reviewing my medical history. Then, he performed 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.
I went to see my doctor two to three times a week for about a month when the problem was identified. Eventually, I was 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. Most of the time you 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 that they were. If you experience any pain during the procedure always let your chiropractor know right away so that they can adjust your care accordingly.
I noticed marked improvements in my breathing and migraine frequency after a month or so of treatment. The soreness began going away, and at the physical after starting therapy, I found that I’d actually gained an inch in height!
Unfortunately, insurance will not always cover the costs because chiropractic care still isn’t accepted as mainstream medicine. If your policy does cover it, check how many appointments it allows for, and work with your chiropractic office accordingly. The visits can become expensive rather quickly.
You also need to be careful to select a chiropractor who is willing to work with you. There is always the possibility for accidental injury since your bones are being adjusted. 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 available offices before making an appointment. The doctors should be fully-accredited and positive patient testimonies are always a plus. 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.
Practicing Yoga to Alleviate Symptoms of Scoliosis
Over time I’ve discovered how useful yoga is in helping maintain healthy posture and muscle tone. I discovered that I no longer needed to go to the chiropractor when I began practicing it on a near daily basis. This is because the yoga poses put my bones back in their proper places when I started slipping out of alignment.
There are many different kinds of yoga available, but the most common form in the Western world is Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga concentrates more on physical conditioning than spiritual growth. It’s ideal to find a beginner's class in order to start your practice, but the National Scoliosis Foundation has suggested a few beginner poses to get you started.
Yoga classes can be expensive, but you may be able to find affordable courses at your local YMCA, fitness center or on your community bulletin board. Some health insurance companies may also include a wellness program that offers discounts.
Simple Yoga Poses for Treating Scoliosis
Helpful Reminders for Aspiring Yogis:
Yoga can be intimidating at first. This is especially true if you look at some of the more advanced poses, but if you do decide to give it a try then remember these important points:
1. Be Patient With Yourself
We all having different starting points in life, and the same holds true for 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.
2. Listen to Your Body
If your body hurts, then ease up on the pose. As with any other forms of stretching, you shouldn’t push yourself to the point of pain. You should feel a pull at the most, but the point is to gradually increase your strength and flexibility and not to hurt yourself.
If your body reacts strangely to a pose you’ve practiced before, it could be a signal of an infection or something else 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 had took my breath away.
3. Follow Your Instincts
Not all yoga classes work for everyone. You may not like the instructor or a 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 useful classes before. 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.
Managing Scoliosis With Back Strengthening Exercises
When I was younger, I was fortunate to be involved with the martial arts Aikido and Tai Chi Chuan. These 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 workout machines at a local gym. All of these things can strengthen your back when done correctly. No one thing works for everyone, so it’s always a good idea to experiment.
Right now, I go for a 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 that the activity has helped strengthen both my upper and lower back.
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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2015 Emilie S Peck
Ashley Pittman on August 20, 2015:
I have scoliosis and am also a physical therapist treating patients with scoliosis and other spinal deformities. The Schroth method was a blessing to find and I'm thankful to give that to others. Please check out my site or search the Schroth method for more information. http://www.scoliosisphysicaltherapy.com/
Emilie S Peck (author) from Minneapolis, MN on May 28, 2015:
When I was growing up, I don't think my parents knew anything about chiropractic care, which is probably why I didn't learn anything about it until I went to massage school.
So glad to hear chiropractics helped you, too! It really is an under-appreciated practice. Very awesome. :)
Melissa Orourke from Roatán, Islas De La Bahia, Honduras on May 28, 2015:
I'm glad you wrote this because when I was in high school, many of us wore a back brace. My parent's didn't "believe" in Chiropractic care! I think because they didn't know much about it. Fast forward to college, I went to a Chiropractor! The "curve" is gone and I haven't had any problems!
Emilie S Peck (author) from Minneapolis, MN on May 24, 2015:
You're very welcome! Thanks for reading. :) I hope some of it can help you out with yours.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 24, 2015:
Thank you for sharing this useful information. I have scoliosis, so I found your hub very interesting!
Emilie S Peck (author) from Minneapolis, MN on May 21, 2015:
You're very welcome! Thanks for dropping by. :)
Milagros Maldonado from New York City on May 21, 2015:
This was really helpful, thank you!
Emilie S Peck (author) from Minneapolis, MN on May 21, 2015:
I hope it helps her! Thanks so much for reading. :)
Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on May 21, 2015:
This is very interesting and useful! My daughter has mild scoliosis and I am going to have her read this. Thank you so much for this hub!
Emilie S Peck (author) from Minneapolis, MN on May 20, 2015:
There's a lot that can be done for mild scoliosis that still causes trouble from time to time, but it takes some hunting to find, sometimes. Thank you!
poetryman6969 on May 20, 2015:
It's good to see that there are things people can do for this. Have a blessed day!