Dr. Frank Collier is a board-certified Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician and Pain Management Specialist who specializes in the treatment of injuries and illnesses that affect how people move and function while living with pain.VIEW FULL BIO
Scoliosis is a term used to describe the lateral (sideways) curvature of the spine. In most cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown, although in some cases, it may be due to birth defects, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.
Scoliosis most frequently develops during the growth spurt preceding puberty (around age 10-15) and affects up to 6 million people in the U.S. alone with girls being much more frequently affected. While most cases of scoliosis are mild, some cases may become progressively more severe and disabling and result in chronic pain if left untreated. In very severe cases, the amount of space in the chest may be compromised, thereby impairing the lung function of the individual.
The traditional treatment methods for scoliosis include regular check-ups, braces and orthopedic surgery. However, these approaches can be highly demanding in terms of time and money and can cause great emotional and social stress. For these reasons, there are many new, alternative treatments being investigated.
Can Yoga Be Used To Improve Scoliosis?
In a recent medical study published in the journal Global Advances in Health and Medicine, the authors aimed to determine the effectiveness of one basic yoga pose, namely the “side plank,” on 25 participants aged 14-85 with idiopathic scoliosis.
The patients all underwent an initial examination, including X-rays, and were subsequently shown how to correctly perform the side plank, which involves lying on one side of the body with straight knees and propping up the upper body using the elbow and forearm. At first, the patients were instructed to perform the pose on the side their spine was curved toward for 10-20 seconds per day for one week, after which time they were instructed to do the pose once daily for as long as possible. The rationale behind this treatment is that since scoliosis is an asymmetric condition, performing the pose on only the weaker side may help strengthen the specific spinal muscles that are needed for reducing the spinal curve.
The authors measured the patients’ spine curvatures at the beginning and end of the study and found that after performing the side plank pose for an average of 1.5 minutes a day 6.1 days a week for 6.8 months, the mean improvement of the spine curvature was 32 percent. Among the patients who did the pose for at least three days a week, the improvement was even more pronounced at 40.9 percent. In adolescents, the improvement was on average 49.6 percent, suggesting that this method, although not a substitute for braces or orthopedic surgery, shows promise when carried out in a regular manner and that further studies to confirm these results are needed.