Many patients have inquired about the benefits and risks of adding yoga to a scoliosis treatment program. The short answer is that the benefits outweigh the risks… as long as some cautions are observed (please see corresponding article for yoga moves to avoid if you do have scoliosis!!!!) In this article I give a general overview of yoga for scoliosis and describe how it fits into a scoliosis stabilization and correction strategy.
There have been studies conducted that suggest activities such as ballet, competitive swimming, and rhythmic gymnastics have significantly higher instances of severe scoliosis. Though it isn’t clear what these activities have in common it is believed that excessive and repeated hyperextension of the thoracic spine (mid back) or “back bending” may be the culprit. Back bends have a flattening effect on the thoracic spine which leaves the mid back more vulnerable. An article on the increased incidence in Ballet performers (New England Journal of Medicine May 22, 1986) shows an increased incidence of scoliosis in that group. Some yoga for scoliosis postures incorporate thoracic back bends and have the potential to aggravate a patient’s thoracic spinal curvature. However, this doesn’t mean scoliosis patients cannot practice scoliosis yoga, nor does it suggest that they cannot benefit from this form of exercise. However, proceed with caution! In a subsequent article, I will be discussing the specific poses that should not be a part of your scoliosis yoga program.
With that being said, “scoliosis yoga” still may be a useful component of a complete scoliosis treatment program. It can also be a fun way to encourage exercise in children and something that can be done as a family activity. However, Yoga for Scoliosis (as any other supplemental stretching or exercise regime) must be used in conjunction with a full scoliosis treatment program and there are specific precautions to adhere to!
A complete scoliosis stabilization and/or reduction treatment program will consist of the following:
- An effective method of unlocking the apex of the curvature (yoga for scoliosis can fit in here nicely).
- An effective method of reducing the size of the curve (that does not put any other area of the scoliotic spine in jeopardy).
- A sophisticated analysis of the posture biomechanics and adaptive patterning that will yield a program of neuromuscular retraining that will lock the new reduced curve posture in place.
As with treatment for any condition, it is important to consult with your physician treating your scoliosis before beginning any regime. Though there are many sources of literature on Scoliosis Yoga and online resources with how-to guides it is still important to discuss these options with your doctor first to make sure it is suitable for you. Everyone’s scoliosis is different and therefore your yoga routine may need to be modified to fit your specific needs. It is never wise to attempt to treat your scoliosis on your own even if it is a mild curve.
For further reading