Scoliosis is a three-dimensional curvature of the spine. The spine curves laterally (from side to side) while at the same time vertebrae rotate within the curve. One the lateral side of the curve, the ribs and intercostal muscles move sideways, spread apart and rotate backwards with the spine (this is called the convex side of the back). On the opposite side of the lateral curve, the intercostal muscles are underdeveloped and the ribs are compressed. Because of the rotation of the spine, the ribs are pushed forward forming a flat back (this is called the convex side of the back).
FOUR MOST COMMON CURVE PATTERNS IN SCOLIOSIS
- Right Thoracic Scoliosis: indicates that the major curve of the spine is in the thoracic region (mid-back) and curves to the right. The apex of the curve is at T10 or higher. There may be a curve to the left in the lumbar region (lower back), but it is less severe.
- Left Lumbar Scoliosis: indicates that the major curve is to the left and is concentrated in the lumbar region. Seventy percent of these curves shift to the left causing the right hip to lift. Because of this, there is a lot of pain in the lumbar spine due to unevenness of the hips.
- Right Thoraco-Lumbar Scoliosis: indicates that the major curve is to the right in the thoracic and lumbar region with the apex of the curve at the junction between the thoracic and lumbar spine. Commonly known as a “C” curve. Cervical and lower back pain are common with this curve.
- Right Thoracic/Left Lumbar “S-Curve”: are two curves — one in the thoracic spine and the other in the lumbar spine. Referred to as “double major” — meaning the two curves are the same size. Neither curve is primary or secondary. The upper curve usually curves to the right, causing compression and pain in the ribcage and lungs. The lower curve curves to the left.
HOW YOGA HELPS PEOPLE WITH SCOLIOSIS
Yoga postures work to lengthen the spine, strengthen the muscles and de-rotate the spine. Breath awareness during yoga practice expands the intercostal muscles between the ribcage, which have decreased elasticity due to the curvature of the scoliotic spine. By sending breath the the concavity of the curve, the collapsed ribcage will expand, providing more lung capacity as well as balance between both sides of the body.
Gloria Rabinowitz has completed Elise Browning Miller’s “Yoga for Scoliosis Teacher Training” at the Yoga Union Center for Backcare and Scoliosis in NYC. She is qualified to diagnose the type of scoliosis clients have and can provide a customized yoga program to help lengthen, strengthen and re-rotate the spine.
Frequently asked Questions about Yoga and Scoliosis:
Four Common Curve Patterns Illustrations by Gary Leung
Deborah Wolk, Yoga Union® Center for Backcare & Scoliosis
Elise Browning Miller: Yoga for Scoliosis