23 August, 2009

scoliosis: exercise your options

Over 35 years of working in the fitness world it has been my privilege to work with numerous people aspiring to the goal of improving their quality of life . People interested in taking responsibility for their health, willing to consider and utilize the services available in the traditional medical community, and learn about their most recent scientific developments. Yet, they were, and are, willing to seek second opinions, and explore holistic approaches to healing and wellness. Many people have begun to recognize how our emotional lives affect the functions of our physical bodies, especially the immune system. In the past we have perceived the physician as a god-like figure, all knowing, infallible and benevolent. And in those “good old days”, scoliosis was frequently treated with spinal fusions, braces and body casts. There is increasing evidence, based on research, that both Pilates and Yoga are effective, non-invasive methods of retarding, and in many cases reversing the progression of this chronic spinal condition. The combination of gently extending, lengthening the spine, and strengthening the abdominal, back and pelvic floor muscles is the foundation of both pilates and yoga. These exercises counter act the effects of gravity and allow the spine to open and unwind. Scoliosis is more than a simple side to side curving of the spine it is actually a spiraling motion of the bones twisting in on themselves for no discernible reason. There are theories related to latent viral infections hiding dormant along the vertebrae. And speculation around emotional disturbances, perhaps abuse issues, domestic violence, intimidation a sense of the body attempting to protect itself. In any case there appears to be an emotional component which is important to consider and examine. It is common to find some degree of degeneration in the spine over the age of 30. We have developed habits of sitting for unhealthy lengths of time with minimal stretch breaks. Many of us are not properly hydrated and reach for water only after we notice we are thirsty. Even then we may chose carbonated, and/or caffeinated beverages, sometimes loaded with corn syrup, hardly the wisest choice. In the process of helping so many clients develop body awareness, increase sensitivity to structural weakness, improve balance and postural alignment, I have come to believe methods like pilates and yoga, or , even better, a combination of the two approaches are preferable to surgical options. The most successful cases also incorporate rehabilitative massage to support the optimal structural integration of the postural changes of the body. Currently, there are excellent DVDs available to rent, borrow or own with selections and sequences of simple exercises which identify and address the various lateral curvatures termed scoliosis. Physical therapy is another valuable resource for those who wish to utilize other options before surgery. As spinal fusion is irreversible, it is best reserved as the last choice. A group class, another inexpensive option can be effective if you take time to inform the instructor prior to registration to identify your concerns and limitations. This will also help you determine if the particular instructor is an appropriate choice for your needs. I suggest you look for a class described as “restorative” or “rehabilitative” taught by someone experienced in modifying the standard exercises for a variety of conditions. Another terrific option is to work one-on-one for 2 or 3 classes to get started safely and to develop a personalized program for your individual needs. Over the past year I have watched a determined pilates enthusiast as he slowly, methodically lost 80 pounds and rebuilt his body by working on the pilates apparatus called the “reformer”. His muscles are now long and lean. His scoliosis is largely undetected. The physical discomfort he experienced is gone and he carries himself proudly, full height, no apologies. His emotional change is dramatic. Previously bullied, he is now positive, creative and full of enthusiasm. His self esteem has flowered carrying him into new adventures and projects. Like so many of the people I am honored to assist, he is an inspiration to anyone on the path to better health. http://www.easyvigour.net.nz/pilates/h_pilatesscoliosis.htm http://www.ehow.com/facts_4828544_pilates-exercises-scoliosis.html http://astore.amazon.com/wwwcurvedspic-20?_encoding=UTF8&node=1 http://www.muellermassageandpilates.com/pilates/ http://www.accelerated-wellness.com/raindrop_therapy_technique.htm

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