Image credit((Source: “Woman with curved spine seated on rock,” Photo courtesy of Casper Nichols on Unsplash »))
Do you have issues with spinal curvature or scoliosis?
Hands On Healing in Montgomery, Alabama offers bodywork therapy and exercise programs designed to provide relief from these conditions.
Upright stance and walking are afforded to us because of our uniquely developed vertebral structure.
There are two directional curves that the vertebral column should maintain in normal health.
Lorodotic curves are the curves of the neck and lower back which bend toward the front of the body. Kyphotic curves of the upper back and sacrum (tailbone) bend backwards.
Curvature in the body is also categorized as being primary and secondary, which correspond to kyphtoic and lorodotic curves respectively. (See Figure 1, click to enlarge)
These natural curves relate to the entire body and are an extremely important part of what we as therapists look for when assessing posture. Without them, it’s very unlikely that someone would be able to stand, walk, or even sit comfortably.
Primary curves relate to the natural curves that we are born with, like the backs of our heads and upper spines, that can be seen in utero. Primary curves often don’t change much throughout our lifespans, except for cases of unique health conditions.
Secondary curves are formed by myofascial development as we grow and age. This type of curvature of the spine is often riddled with imbalance from improperly learned muscular health or injury.
The structure of the vertebral column is highly dependent on the healthy function of its surrounding muscle and fascial tissue.
Fascial adhesion or muscular imbalance will cause the vertebrae to distribute their weight improperly onto the discs and spinal nerves, causing damage, pain, and even extreme cases of paralysis.
The more common case of vertebral imbalance is an exaggeration of curvature.
There are two conditions related to exaggerated curvature of the spine:
Kyphosis occurs when the kyphotic curve is dramatically bent, or “hunch back”.
Lorodosis refers to an over-engaged lorodotic curve, or “sway back”.
Most cases of exaggeration are easily treated with soft-tissue techniques and proper muscular balance.
In some cases, a person may develop a health condition or imbalance that will lead to a loss of curvature, which requires a much more detailed approach to improving alignment. In these circumstances lorodotic curves are easier to improve, since they are secondary curves and rely so heavily on muscular development to maintain their position.
Basic bodywork and exercise can greatly improve the loss of lorodotic curvature.
For circumstances that involve the loss of kyphtoic curvature, most notably in the thoracic spine (upper back), exercises will often produce the best results.
Most cases of kyphotic curvature loss are related to an imbalance of neuromuscular and soft tissues of the ribcage, and bodywork can often be limited in reaching these deep areas of someone’s structure.
It is, however, very beneficial to receive bodywork to improve the secondary curves of the body, since without stable secondary curves, chances of improving lost primary curves are almost impossible.
Primary and secondary spinal curvature focuses only on the natural and ideal curves of the vertebral column and some of the more common dysfunctions we usually observe when the spine is out of balance.
However, even in these dysfunctional states, the spinal column still maintains a functional level of vertical alignment.
When the natural vertical alignment of the spinal column is disrupted, we call this “scoliosis.”
The vertical alignment of the spinal column is often an underappreciated function of the human body. As we’ve discussed before, we carry a rather heavy and cumbersome skull atop our entire structure, and it requires a well-balanced frame below it to keep us standing upright.
Even when the spinal column shows signs of curvature exaggeration or loss, the general vertical stacking of the vertebrae can suffice to maintain a working structure.
When we deal with cases of scoliosis, we observe that the vertebrae are actually beginning to weight-bear off center to one another.
This is something that is most often viewed from behind, having someone slowly bend forward to touch the toes and observing the alignment of each vertebrae in relationship to each other, shown in Figure 2 (click to enlarge).
The severity of scoliosis can vary greatly on a case-by-case basis.
Each person will have a different reason for why his or her body develops spinal curvature conditions, and in most cases, spinal dysfunctions will show in adolescence during rapid development.
The general assessment of scoliosis falls into two distinctions:
Structural cases are generally defined by early onset and are attributed to specific genetic problems including:
Structural scoliosis alters the natural growth and development of the body.
Bodywork is very effective in helping relieve some of the pain or dysfunction of structural scoliosis, but the spine will never fully restore its balance.
In the case of functional scoliosis, spinal curvature is held out of balance by muscular or fascial conditions.
For these circumstances, bodywork is much more effective as a treatment, and can often have long-term benefits that could greatly enhance the quality of life. The curvature of functional scoliosis is much easier to improve, even if never completely restored.
To best determine whether someone has a structural or functional imbalance, a therapist can physically observe a client’s spine for certain levels of vertebral movement.
In the case of structural or functional scoliosis, bodywork can be a valuable asset in the treatment of the condition.
Some level of relief can be achieved in both cases, and there are numerous exercises that can be applied to continue the benefits long after receiving bodywork.