Pilates for scoliosis, how does it help?
– by Chrisen Hall
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine. The severity of the curve differs from person to person and scoliosis is very common in the UK and it affects all ages. According to the NHS UK, around three to four in every 1000 children need treatment for scoliosis. The degree to which scoliosis will affect a person’s daily life depends upon how serious the curve is in their spine as everybody is very different. Scoliosis can be very mild, or significant and potentially disabling. If somebody is living with a severe scoliosis, it will affect the entire alignment of bones through the body. Not only does scoliosis impact your vertebrae, but it will also impact the structures around it. Scoliosis can shift the height of hip bones, resulting in two different leg length, it can shift the height of the shoulder blades and it can torque the rib cage, which can affect breathing.
As you could imagine, this can create pain and discomfort in the body. In particular it will reduce range of motion in areas of the body which can lead to complications in traditional exercise modalities and can limit a person from exercising as freely as they want to. There are not many things that will straighten a scoliotic spine after the spine has fully matured in an adult and Pilates is perfect for reducing the pain and discomfort associated with scoliosis. Unlike traditional exercise modalities, Pilates is low impact on the joints and it works to pull and glide muscles and bones into more of a natural alignment. The Pilates Reformer machine is perfect for exercising with scoliosis, the machine supports the body and teaches you quickly how to find proper alignment without strain.
I have worked with many clients who as as a symptom of their scoliosis hold tension in their back and neck, are stiff around the thoracic (mid back) and rib cage area. My goal in developing a Pilates program for scoliotic clients is to create more symmetry throughout the body to reduce daily discomfort and improve quality of life. We will achieve this by stretching the muscles out that are excessively weak, and by strengthening the muscles that are weak due to the scoliosis condition.