Scoliosis, Curvature of the Spine

I am working with a client who has scoliosis. Melody has a 40 degree curvature of the spine.   Imagine a backwards C  from her neck to her hips, the curve is affecting her right side.  That means that because of the curvature, her ribs are pulled and lifted to the  right, her right shoulder lifts and her left hip lifts( with her left arm resting on her left hip).  Her left ribcage, is collapsed and concave in the back, due to the shifting of the ribcage to the right.  This shift of the ribcage only allows her to have 75 % lung capacity in her left lung.  Melody wore a Milwaukee brace from the age of 12 to 19, for 23 hours a day, everyday.   Once she was no longer wearing the brace her spine returned to a 40 degree curve.  Checkout the first picture above, an x-ray of Melody’s spine in October 2009.

Melody has just started wearing a new and improved brace, not even visible under her clothes, to help straighten her spine.    Doing Pilates will also help her straighten her spine as well as strengthen her left side, which is key to getting her spine straight. The right side is so dominant and strong, the left side is just left in the dust, no pun intended!  Also, I am hoping it will increase her left lung capacity.   She returns to the doctor in January for a checkup and re-adjustment of the brace.  I hope the doctor is surprised and happy with her improvement. 

Checkout the next two photos above.  The second one is before our Pilates session.  If you look carefully, the curvature of her spine matches her x-ray.   In the third photo, taken after our session, you can see a shift to the left in a big way and that her spine is straighter!  Her right shoulder is moving down, her left hip is lower, left arm is not resting on the left hip and her left rear lung is less concave and collapsed.  All Melody’s hard work is paying off! 

During our session we work on organizing the right shoulder to move down and in towards her curve, we stretch her left side, performing mermaid, forcing her right side to move towards the left.  For the entire session we focus on post lateral breathing and making that rib cage bigger and fuller, only on the left side.  We also work on strengthening her left side, by only doing exercises on that side.  We are working towards being able to do a full workout with her spine straighter!  It would not be beneficial for Melody to continue exercising  only using her right-sided strength and letting her spine keep curving  towards the right. 

Melody has felt a huge difference in her pain level.  Doing exercises, recommended by her doctor and Pilates, I think has changed her outlook on how she feels physically now and will the future.  Not to say it doesn’t help mentally and emotionally to not be in pain all the time.  Melody continues her exercises at home, which is a big part of her success.

Just a side note.  I also have scoliosis and wore a brace for 3 years, from age 12 to 15.  Working with Melody also has helped me change the  alignment, of  my spine, our curves are to the same side!

4 thoughts on “Scoliosis, Curvature of the Spine

  1. usman

    Thank you for posting this article! I am also a scoliosis sufferer with pretty much the exact same curve as Melody. I have been doing Yoga for the past 3 years and it does not seem to be reversing my scoliosis. If possible, could you please provide me with a list of Pilates exercises that you did with Melody so I can incorporate them in my exercise regimen. For example, you mentioned the mermaid; I cannot seem to understand from the description which way were you stretching towards – to the right or the left, if Melody’s back is facing towards me? I would love to visit you for treatment but I reside in Toronto, Canada. 😦
    If you could get back to me on thee notes it would be of extreme help. (If you wish you can send me an email directly, as the moderator of the Blog you will have access to it).

    1. courlates

      hi! so nice to hear from you. i am happy to help you with some exercises that would help with your scoliosis. the goal is to work the muscles on the oppposite side that your curve goes to bring the spine back to center. the mermaid is just a side bend, but you always want to oppose the curve. melody’s curve is to the right, so she bends to the righ pushing the spine back towards center and the left. you can also do oblique exercises on the opposite side of the curve, hence the weaker side.i created a specific routine for her using the pilates equipment. my master teacher has just written a book about scoliosis, i would suggest getting a copy. the book is called scolio pilates by karena thek lineback…… hope this helps,

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