Helping Our Clients with Scoliosis
If you have being involved in bodywork for any length of time you have had your hands on more than a few clients who were scoliotic and offered you quite a challenge!
In my training at the Rolf Institute there was one axiom that I was taught that made the work very simple to understand. Our work is involved in the lengthening process. It is the only way you can straighten a body.
So, if we can lengthen the body, we can give support to our clients whose scoliosis creates often constant painful conditions in their bodies. Given enough time, we can assist in making some wonderful changes in this idiopathic condition (a condition of unknown origin). You will definitely need to sharpen your body reading skills, and allow yourself enough time to make these changes in your client’s body.
I always tell a potential client that this our work is not a quick fix solution, and it is better not to embark on a journey with me if their expectations are to be straighter and more pain free in a few sessions. Ain’t going to happen.
This article is the first in a series designed to get you started down the path to understanding scoliosis at a deeper level and allowing you to embark on the rewarding journey of helping clients who have the condition.
How Does Scoliosis Affect the Structure?
A true scoliosis, at least in my understanding, will display a gibbus when the client bends forward. You will see one side of the back is more posterior in relationship to the other side. If you don’t see and palpate the gibbus, then it is not a true scoliosis, and less difficult to illicit positive changes. I have had clients in my practice whose scoliotic pattern almost completely disappeared after finding out there was a true bone length discrepancy in one of their legs and having it corrected with lifts or orthotics.
Assuming the spine is scoliotic, one or more of the curvatures will be seen in the frontal plane and the vertebrae will be rotated on the horizontal plane. Think about that for a bit, look at a scoliotic diagram in Netter’s anatomy or Google it. Take your understanding of this in little sips. This is one of the most challenging conditions for a bodyworker/massage therapist.
The gibbus that we talked about earlier is formed by the rotations of the transverse processes that have shifted posteriorly on one side of the ribs. then on the opposite side of the spine, the transverse processes rotate anteriorly and there is a noticeable concavity. It is not always possible, but it is a good idea if you are interested in working with someone with this condition, to find a doctor who has the instrumentation to help you expedite your work with a focus that will come with that type of relationship. The client could have an extra vertebra, or a shorter leg length due to true bone discrepancy. Once knowing the structural picture using scientific instrumentation, your path is much easier to follow.
When is Treatment Most Effective?
Puberty is often the time of onset, and females have the challenge to a higher extent than males, although in my practice I haven’t been able to validate that fact. Our work is most effective at the onset of the condition while the child is the early stage and the bones are growing quickly. Once we do 10-15 sessions, it is often wise to have the child brought back in more tune-ups when it’s obvious that they have grown.
The most important take home at this time is to know that we have to lengthen the fascia and communicate to the nervous system the firing pattern that has taken root. Look at the shoulder girdle, you will undoubtedly see one clavicle lower and one scapula in the same pattern. From a clearly mechanical stand point, because the thoracic cavity has the ability to twist more than the lumbar vertebrae, presenting a more difficult challenge. Often times when a client has come to you as an adult with a pain presentation from scoliosis, the bones may have actually assumed more of a conical shape. No matter how advanced the condition we can help bring ease and relief. That being said, it is wise to advise a client that you have the ability to create much more ease and less pain, but it will be an ongoing process like the maintenance of a vehicle.
In the second part of this article we will begin to look closer at the structure and start to give you tools and techniques to bring more clarity and effectiveness to the work.