ENLIGHTEN UP! a blog
Self-awareness stories: lighting our way to clarity, contentment and resilience in a complicated world.
ENLIGHTEN UP! a blog
Self-awareness stories: lighting our way to clarity, contentment and resilience in a complicated world.
Guest post by Linda Benton
Is scoliosis becoming more common as you age? The answer is “yes” in age degenerative scoliosis (ADS).
Research shows an increase in the number of geriatric diseases in aging populations around the globe. Specifically, there are more older people getting diagnosed with ADS. While scoliosis can be diagnosed as idiopathic, some research suggests that it is also due to hormonal changes during puberty, perimenopause/menopause.
Research findings at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago are suggesting it’s an autoimmune disorder. That research, however, is still being examined and investigated.
80% of females are affected by scoliosis vs 20% of men. Research also shows that neuromuscular diseases, osteoporosis, and sarcopenia increase the risk of getting adult degenerative scoliosis.
The causes of scoliosis – genetic utero, developed at puberty or menopause, or is secondary to a neuromuscular disease.
If you are starting to see the following:
Your height changes aggressively in a short period
You start leaning forward a lot or rounding your shoulder/back
You notice one hip sticks out further than the other
Your noticing leg length discrepancies
Your lung capacity has decreased
You feel like the bottom of your rib cage is hitting the top of your pelvis when you sit
You can’t get comfortable and your spinal column hurts (or at least a portion of it)
Because your shoulders and/or hips are asymmetrical, your clothes stop fitting properly
You often lose your balance
What should you do?
Find an Orthopedic Specialist for Scoliosis in your area. Make sure the Ortho doc’s focused specialty is scoliosis. Don’t go to a shoulder Ortho or a Hip Ortho or even a knee Ortho; go to the big dog within the practice whose specialty is scoliosis. They will understand all the nuances involved in the changes going on within your structure and functionality.
Once you find your specialist, I highly recommend you insist on scheduling a full spinal scan – from the cervical spine through the tailbone. Why? Almost 100% of the time, my clients come to me with an x-ray to view that does not show the full spine. I can tell by examining the client that there are other asymmetrical structures existing. It would be quite helpful to me to see where exactly/at what vertebrae this asymmetry starts. So, with that being said, I repeat as a strong suggestion - be your own advocate and insist on a full body x-ray – cervical through the tailbone.
What exactly is Scoliosis? It’s a disorder of the spine causing:
Lateral shifting of the spine
A rotation of the vertebrae and ribs “s” or “c” shaped curve
There are two types of curves:
Structural curve: misalignment of the bones (which can be managed and strengthened)
2-3% of the population have Structural Scoliosis, and an estimated 7-9 million in the US, or 1/10 persons are structural. With Structural Scoliosis, 75-85% are idiopathic, 10-15% are congenital scoliosis, and 10% secondary to a neuromuscular disease
Functional curve: imbalance of the muscles (can be fully corrected permanently) 80-90% of the population have Functional. Functional scoliosis is a muscle imbalance and can be corrected. It is an imbalance of the bilateral muscle functioning of the back, without altering the bony structure.
Causes of a functional curve are repetitive habits that cause a lateral shift of the spine such as:
Holding a child on one hip
Carrying a heavy bag on one side, poor postural habits, etc.
Leg length discrepancy
This can be reversed with yoga, Pilates, or other modalities that will correct the curvature(s), increase range of motion in the joint AND strengthen and balance muscle groups. May I respectfully add, many of my clients go for massages (absolutely fabulous as you need to loosen up the fascia) and to chiropractors. Both offer some great relief BUT these modalities will not address you getting stronger and correcting the curvature(s) so that they don’t continue to increase. If you do nothing at all to correct and strengthen your curvature(s), your curvature(s) will increase by 1% per year.
Let’s define vertebrae and the four natural curves.
Your vertebrae are the small bones that make up your spinal column. These vertebrae stack on top of each other, separated by intervertebral discs. These bones protect your delicate spinal cord, which sends and receives information from your brain to the rest of your body. Your spine consists of 4 curves (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral/coccyx) and 33 vertebrae – 7 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 9 sacrum/coccyx – the sacrum/coccyx fuse at about the age of 26 to support the weight and structure of shoulders and hips.
Scoliosis will cause your vertebrae to move against each other more than they should. This can stretch and pinch your surrounding nerves, ligaments, and muscles, causing pain. Scoliosis will also affect the working of many muscles in the body.
The characteristics of Scoliosis that no one probably ever told you:
Central Nervous system is overactive stimulating the sympathetic nervous system/fight or flight. Fun fact – the sympathetic nervous system lies in the thoracic spine. If your curvature is anywhere in the thoracic spine, your sympathetic nervous system is impacted. Why? Because the spine is trying to bring your head back to center so that it will sit correctly on the axis of the skull.
Your balance is off
Core/leg strength are highly affected
Lung capacity is greatly affected, and breadth is shallow and uneven in the diaphragm/intercostal muscles
You tend to spasm easily – the spasming will be in the concavity.
Prescription eyesight is different
Loren Fishman, MD is the medical director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in New York City, the author of eight books, and the author or editor of more than 70 academic articles. His research studies prove that yoga for scoliosis is an instrumental aid to those with scoliosis in utilizing the modality of yoga. The Serial Case Reporting Yoga for idiopathic and degenerative scoliosis is a very thorough research article he authored. And of course, I love his research on Yoga poses to reduce the curves in degenerative and adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.
At Dayton Children’s Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, Pilates for Scoliosis is part of the medical treatment plan for eligible patients with scoliosis.
I talk to new clients all the time who say to me “My doctor told me there is nothing I can do for my scoliosis”. That can’t be further from the truth. My mission within this article is to improve, as much as possible, the lives of people living with scoliosis and raise advocacy and awareness.
A daily 10-minute (no less) Shavasana is imperative. My YouTube channel has over 50 free videos for you to refer to as a resource choice and learning of lengthening, derotating, and strengthening your curvatures. No matter what the curve in your back looks like, it’s imperative to focus on building strength and improving your posture through the modalities of Yoga for Scoliosis and Pilates for Scoliosis. After all, we always feel better when we come move more freely and be out of pain. LINK to YOU TUBE CHANNEL
The challenge is that – you have to do the work. If you don’t have a home discipline, nothing will decrease (or at least halt) your curvature. It could be as simple as 5 minutes daily plus a 10-minute Shavasana daily. Why is the Shavasana imperative? It rewires the brain AND calms the sympathetic nervous system. An added bonus to this is from staying in the posture for a 10-minute segment, in a short period of time, you will find your shoulders and pelvis squarer. Many of my client’s state that this simple posture has totally relieved their lower back pain because their pelvis becomes more symmetric.
This post has been edited to fit the format of the Enlighten Up! blog. You can read the full article here.
Link to Linda’s Website: https://scoliosisandstrong.com
About the author: Linda Benton is a Certified Yoga Therapist and Certified Scoliosis and Back Care specialist and President of ScolioYoga, LLC. In Illinois. She holds over 20 years of experience in teaching Yoga and Pilates. As a Certified Yoga Therapist for Scoliosis, Advanced Pilates for Scoliosis and Reformer Certified, she customizes 1:1 sessions (virtual or in studio) to teach you a home practice to make you Scoliosis STRONG thru, therapeutic movements and techniques utilizing the modalities of Yoga and Pilates for Scoliosis.
What is relaxation? It is NOT collapsing on the couch at the end of the day with your smartphone or iPad. We all do this from time to time and sometimes more times that we should. Oops, did I just ‘should on us? Well, it is a habit we need to watch but like eating ice cream for breakfast, this is OK in moderation.
Typically, we think of being relaxed as a state where we don’t have a care in the world; we exist in blissful serenity ‘in the moment.’ You’re engrossed in a hobby you are passionate about. Or you’re on vacation, sitting by a lake lost in the stillness of the water, skiing down a mountain feeling the wind on your face, or hiking up one totally merged with nature.
In order to consciously and consistently practice relaxation outside of those wonderful experiences, it helps to have a deeper understanding of relaxation and how you can employ it amid the work, trials and tribulations of your regular daily life. Ann Lamott describes the process this way, Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes...Including you.
Here are two ways to think about relaxation.
Basic relaxation is a physiological process and an emotional state in which stress and difficult emotions such as anger, anxiety, or fear are reduced. Science calls this the Relaxation Response. It’s your ability to use your mind/body connection to help your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain.
The other way to think about relaxation comes from the yoga tradition. It’s called a relaxed state of awareness. It includes all the elements of basic relaxation but adds another concept; the idea that while in a relaxed state you can also be totally awake and aware of everything that is going on around you and within you.
For at least 10 to 15 minutes after every yoga class, I do a guided practice for students to experience a relaxed state of awareness. After one class a woman came up to ask me to explain what had happened to her during the practice. I asked her to tell me what she experienced. She said she thought she had fallen asleep but she knew that couldn’t be true because she heard my voice and was aware of the noises in the room. She said she had never felt anything like that before. I explained that she had experienced a relaxed state of awareness. She told me she’d never thought about relaxation in that way. I like to think she had an Aha! moment.
When you are able to achieve a relaxed state of awareness during your waking daily activities, you are more likely to respond calmly and appropriately to your situation instead of reacting in ways that may not be in your short or long-term interests.
The ability to relax, however you choose to understand it, is a vital aspect of self-care. It’s a skill. It can be learned. So, why don’t more of us develop a consistent relaxation practice?
Here are three reasons.
Finding a way to relax is especially important under those three conditions or when you find yourself in everyday situations that cause you to lose ease in the body and peace in the mind. Here are two techniques to try.
One of the most accessible go-to breath practices is Relaxation Breath. This breath technique does four things at the same time. It:
Playing soothing music in the background is an option for your practice and if you practice regularly, you will be able to use this technique in situations when you must stand and keep your eyes open.
Note: If you are one of the 15% of folks who encounter ‘Relaxation-Induced Anxiety,’ you may find this technique helpful and less anxiety producing because you can do it seated or standing and you can keep your eyes open.
Here’s one more technique to try. I start my yoga classes with this and I do it myself most mornings.
Props: a sturdy chair, a pillow or folded blanket for the head, a timer and a music source (optional).
Variation: If getting up and down on the floor is difficult try this in bed with your legs on a stack of pillows. This can also be done sitting comfortably in a chair with your feet on the floor or on footrests if you are using a wheelchair.
Find a relaxation practice that works for you to help you optimize your stress hardiness.
BETH GIBBS started her yoga practice in 1968, four months after her son was born and she’s been practicing ever since. She currently teaches all levels therapeutic yoga classes for adults, and specialty classes for seniors in the Hartford, Connecticut area. Beth is a certified yoga therapist through the International Association of Yoga Therapists and is guest faculty at the Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy. She writes for the blogs, Yoga for Healthy Aging, and Accessible Yoga. Her master’s degree from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA is in Yoga Therapy and Mind/Body Health.