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Section 2: My own story with scoliosis illustrating some common symptoms.

My own spine:

     The scoliosis that I know the best is my own, of course, so I’ll use it as an example. (For more details on my story:  https://lauramgates.com/laura-gates/  ) I can see some potential causes in my history including some childhood emotional trauma, tumbling down a flight of stairs as a toddler, a quick growth spurt at puberty coupled with a 10 foot fall from a tree.

     As a professional dancer and later dance teacher from my twenties on into my forties, my life was fraught with chronic pain, a feeling of constant and intense compression in my spine, and a back that went into crisis several times a year. The many modalities I tried in desperation gave only very temporary and minor relief. Even though I was at my athletic peak, I noticed my stamina was a bit less than my fellow dancers. Now I understand that compromise to my lung capacity might have played a role, and also that to do any movement like jumping, balancing, or spinning on the axis of one leg, required considerably more brain power (both conscious and unconscious levels) and energy use, to organize my body in movement, than someone without scoliosis.



     I had and still have a moderate scoliosis with two main curves in the mid-thoracic and upper thoracic/cervical spine, and additional compensatory curves above and below. (I have used a "quick sketch" of my own spine (see drawing 2) to visually illustrate.) The two compensatory curves at the neck and lumbar area are now very changeable. The two main curves less so, although I’ve achieved overall measurable improvement especially in the mid-thoracic curve, and my L shoulder (formerly 2” lower) is less low now and occasionally even higher after a session or class.

     The changes that were/are more dramatic for me are functional: considerably more movement in the ribs, torso, absence of the sensation of compression in the spinal column, improvement to my posture in general, and maybe most important, I have a back that does not go into crisis, and is relatively pain free most of the time.  Mind you, I do NOT forget to give myself the gift of somatic floor time! For me, it is a crucial component to maintaining my health. Occasional hands on sessions are highly recommended. Each soma and scoliosis is different, so its hard to predict how much change is possible, but change and improvement is quite likely, especially if the person can embrace their somatic practice.

Some symptoms that come with scoliosis:

     I am a typical example of the collection of common symptoms that often come with scoliosis, especially with aging and over time.


>> These include arthritis, stenosis in the tightest curved parts of my spine, arthritis and inflammation in some joints (such as the sternoclavicular joint that is compromised by the rib distortion) and spondylolisthesis, a lumbar vertebrae that wants to slide forward and impinge on nerves. If joints are not meeting in an optimum way due to the scoliotic distortion to alignment and movement mechanics, then both stress and wear and tear will occur, and eventually structural changes will happen to bones, cartilage, and/or soft tissue.

     These issues could well have a serious negative impact to quality of life. I doubt seriously that I would be comfortably hiking, walking, dancing (gently) at age 67, and dragging heavy suit cases on the road with my teaching team if I didn’t have this awesome work in my life! Gratefully, I found somatics in the mid 90s and via quite a few hands-on sessions, consistent use of the movement practice, and inventing some specific strategies for my scoliosis with this knowledge, I remain pretty close to pain and symptom free, and enjoy the activities I love to do. So far so good! 

   In recent years, I have been developing and teaching workshops on somatic solutions for uneven posture and scoliosis. (See upcoming workshop schedule.) Needless to say, I am very passionate about getting these non-invasive, gentle but powerfully effective tools out to the world, and into the hands of the people that need it. It’s especially crucial for those with scoliosis, as the options offered in the mainstream world are pretty grim to say the least, including surgeries for spinal fusion and rods. But if you have a client with fusion, rods or both, somatics can still be very helpful dealing with pain issues, even when movement is very limited or non-existent. More about this in a later article.

Continue reading in the SomaTimes - Section 3a: Assessment Tools.