and After Exercise Therapy
It worked. I had to see a lot of people and waste a lot of money on treatments that didn't help and some that made me worse, but in the end I did find people and books that helped my scoliosis a lot. The books on scoliosis and exercises were hard to find, but they do exist. Now my days are generally pain free and most of my spinal curve is gone. The list below contains information on the books and techniques I found helpful.
Be sure to check with your health care provider before starting on any exercise program, especially if you have health concerns.
The books and exercises listed below are what helped me, but the scoliosis exercises and yoga poses in them may not be appropriate for everyone.
||Backcare Basics - Mary Schatz, M.D.|
Comments: This is a yoga book written by Mary Pullig Schatz, someone who is both a medical doctor and a yoga teacher. She used yoga to solve her own back problems and now teaches yoga to help other people with back problems, including some students with scoliosis. It is an excellent book. It has great background information on muscle imbalances and how this can cause pain. It also has a set of exercises you can do to try to figure out on your own where your muscles are either too loose or too tight.
What's really unique about this book is that it has a whole chapter just on scoliosis (p. 163 - 179) with a number of yoga poses specifically for the condition. I know of several people besides myself who have found this book helpful for scoliosis.
This book was a great find because most books on scoliosis dismiss the role of exercise in treating the disorder and most books on yoga do not specifically address scoliosis. I don't do all of the exercises in the chapter because some aggravate other problems that I have like thoracic outlet syndrome, but many of the exercises have been extremely helpful.
My personal favorite exercises for scoliosis from this book are:
Chair seated twist with torso support - Gently helps to stretch out the concave side of my torso.
Passive Back Arch - Helps my thoracic outlet syndrome.
One leg up, one leg out - My leg on the concave side of the body is more cramped than the other side and this exercise helps to gently stretch it out.
One elbow up, one elbow down - Helped to make my shoulders more even. I do this one more with my lower, weak shoulder side upwards to try to strengthen it. This exercise really helped free up my frozen shoulder.
If you only buy one book for scoliosis, this is the book I would get. For a more complete list of the yoga poses from this book that I found helpful, see my page on Yoga for Scoliosis.
In order to correct my scoliosis, I had to use "reverse engineering." I had to figure out where my muscles were tight and where they were stretched out, and then try to strengthen the weak muscles and stretch out the tight muscles. The Backcare Basics book is good because it has sections on how to determine where your muscles are tight and then has recommended yoga poses to stretch out just those areas.
Here's a picture I drew to illustrate what was wrong with my body when my scoliosis was at its worst. The big knotted muscles in my shoulder at point A and leg at points C and D were causing tension across my whole side and caused my spine to bend and buckle.
The shaded areas show where I had a lot of tension in my body. At point B, I developed a frozen shoulder. By the time I hit my thirties, my shoulder was simply under too much muscular stress to move freely. After relaxing the knotted muscles at points A and C, and loosening up and strengthening my right shoulder at point B, I'm slowly getting my body to look more normal and my spine fairly straight.
For a more detailed explanation of what was causing my scoliosis, read my section on How Exercise Helped My Scoliosis.
Structural Yoga Therapy - by M. Stiles
This is another excellent book on using yoga to correct specific postural and orthopedic problems, with a good deal of information specifically on scoliosis. I found this book after I'd corrected a lot of my own spinal curve, but it is interesting to note that many of the postures the author recommends are either the same, or very similar, to the postures I found on my own through trial and error. While my scoliosis probably improved 85% from when it was at it's worst, I'm using this book now to try to" fine tune" my body even more and eliminate the rest of my curve and other structural imbalances.
This book specifically has poses to do to not just for scoliosis but also many of the associated conditions such as one shoulder higher than the other, a tilted head, winged scapula, kyphosis, forward heard, high hips, round shoulders and many more.
It is much more detailed and comprehensive than the Back Care Basics book. If you have never tried yoga before you might want to start off with Back Care Basics. But if you are already sold on the benefits of yoga and want more detailed information on how to use yoga to solve your pain and structural problems, then this book might be a good one to read as well.
Some yoga books that are supposedly for specific conditions are often in reality just pretty pictures of models doing yoga poses that involve the body part in question. Both the Back Care Basics and Structural Yoga Therapy books are different because they both have sections on how to determine where your muscles are unbalanced and then suggest specific poses based on individual issues.
If you understand what I'm saying about "reverse engineering your body" and correcting your postural imbalances, then these are both great books to get. Structural Yoga Therapy is especially very detailed and comprehensive. While it does have some basic routines that people that are helpful for people with scoliosis and other structural problems, the author really focuses on providing information charts and exercises to help people to understand where their muscles are tight and unbalanced and which specific exercises they should do for their individual orthopedic problems.
With scoliosis, I don't think there are many blanket exercises that people can do to correct their curves. Some people may have a double curve with even shoulders, some may have a single curve with a high left shoulder, some a high right shoulder, etc. Books and videos that do not show you how to develop an individualized, personalized routine just for your specific imbalances, are in my opinion, likely to be a waste of money.
Postures in this book I found particular helpful were:
Joint freeing series - especially good if you have scoliosis with tight shoulder muscles like I do. (Chapter 15)
Head to Knee Pose - I hold this pose longer when I'm stretching on the right (concave side) of my curve where the muscles are shorter and the hip is higher to try to get the paraspinal muscles on that side on my body even in length with my left side. I think over time this has helped my spine to become straighter by not being pulled out of alignment by tighter muscles on one side on my body.
Spinal and Abdominal Twists - When I do these I can feel the muscles in my high shoulder being stretched out and pulled down, which weakens them. In my case this is good because right now they are overly tight and overdeveloped, so I want to try to get the muscles in my left shoulder weaker and the muscles in my right shoulder stronger.
I do a lot of abdominal twists
with my knes to the left to stretch out my high left shoulder. Then I
do the extended triangle with my right hand up only to strengthen
the muscles on the right shoulder, because there the shoulder muscles
are weak and stretched out from years of being pulled down my tight leg
muscles in my right leg.
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Related sections of interest:
Comparing Yoga, Exercise, and a Self-Care Book for Chronic Low Back Pain - in a study published in the december, 200 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, yoga was found to be more effective for lower back pain than either a self help book or routine back exercises.
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