Scoliosis - A Conversation

At a party yesterday a man introduced himself and wanted to talk to me about his scoliosis.  We both gathered our food and choose a relatively quiet place to sit and talk. He had heard about my work, and was interested in learning about his scoliosis

While he was sitting next to me, I could see is right knee was about 3/4 “ inch more in front than the left knee. I told him his pelvis was creating that by rotating a little to the left. I also knew that such a rotation of the pelvis goes along with a longer right leg, due to a right ileum (ASIS – Anterior Superior Iliac Spine) that is rotated anteriorly and inferiorly. He told me his left leg was longer. I corrected him, telling him, “I don’t think so, your right leg is the longer one.” He did a double-take, confessed that he was confusing left and right, and agreed that I was right. I wondered if he was just testing me.

What can be said to a person, sitting at a party, eating food, to help him self-correct his scoliosis? That was the question in my mind. Why don’t I just tell him a few truths, don’t worry if he does not agree or understand – he has asked you for advice, so you may as well give it to him straight.  Here are some of the points I made, while sitting there at 9:30 PM:

  • Scoliosis can and will self-correct if you learn to stop compressing the body, and learn to stop continually creating the problem. This takes mentoring and patience and probably involvement in the Feldenkrais Method.
  • It is foolish and inefficient to try to correct scoliosis (as if the spine and pelvis were like a machine that got twisted and needs to be straightened) without first addressing the issues that are creating and perpetuating it. As well, the scoliosis lives in the eyes, the nasal passages, the lungs and heart, all the joints and muscles and in every movement we do, or even think of doing. A mechanical approach is a sure way to create pain; whereas a global approach that combines the mechanical with movement education (Feldenkrais) is optimal.
  • One primary cause of spinal compression (in his case) was his rather extreme head forward posture. I taught him one simple method to begin to self-correct this: relax and inhale fully, then tense the body while pulling in the belly tightly (puffing out the upper chest to the max). The head forward posture disappears. A collapsed upper chest means head forward posture, and a filled out upper chest means the opposite. I made the point again, that scoliosis will remain locked in his spine and pelvis unless and until he begins to correct head forward posture. I told him to do this dozens of times during each day.


Another cause of his spinal compression was his strong visual dependency. There was precision, intellectual vigilance, strain and effort written into how he was using his eyes. I knew the even if we corrected the mechanical aspect of scoliosis, his eyes would soon recreate the whole scenario. So, I taught him various ways to moderate this visual vigilance – making the point that if the eyes are hard focused and tense, then all the joints in the body tend to be that way too, and it would be a very slow go, to correct scoliosis with eyes like that. I pointed out that all wild animals alternate from near vision to far focus, open focus with wide-angle vision and relaxed eyes. His eyes were never relaxing!

I told him to do his daily calisthenics with eyes closed, and without remembering the frontal visual field (as visually dominant people tend to do, even with eyes closed). Exercise softly, mindfully, often letting the breath lead the movement – letting the body experience proprioception and movement in non-habitual (not controlled by the eyes). Some version of this has to happen if his scoliosis is to unwind and loosen.

I told him that he needs to often look into the distance, or go into de-focus mode with the eyes, to let his body “find another way to be” since I felt his strained eyes were partly contributing or creating his scoliosis.

Then I mentioned walking backwards, at least a few steps every day. This reverses all our bad movement habits including the ones that perpetuate scoliosis. I mentioned sleeping on the stomach four ways, C curve right, left, and scoliosis right and left (head turned on the side away from the leg drawn up). If he learns to do this with suppleness and ease, he will no longer have scoliosis. It is a Feldenkrais principle that if we can do a variety of things left and right and off center in any direction then and only then can we be confident to really find and know where “center” or good alignment can be found. It is a dynamic process and not so much mechanical as everyone thinks. Of course, after an accident or fall, when the body is twisted and pelvis is “out” the problem there is entirely mechanical. I am talking here more about chronic scoliosis that has existed for many years in a person’s body.

I showed him how to create his scoliosis sitting in a chair, and how to slowly unwind from that, showing his body how to self-correct the situation. Briefly, here’s how: Sit quietly. Turn your ribs and shoulders one way, left or right, depending on which way is easier. Go a little farther than you would want to go. Stay there. Now, side bend the torso to the right or left, whichever is easier. Then turn the head right or left which ever is easier. If you follow the easy path, you will be in your custom made scoliotic pattern. Breathe into this. Stay there. Sense how things are. Then slowly, oh-so-slowly, unwind from the position. Take 3 minutes. This is showing your body how to unwind from scoliosis.

I mentioned the need to learn to stand tall on one leg at a time, since with two legs the tension and imbalance of scoliosis is much more manifest. Unwind your own scoliosis by often standing tall and relaxed over one foot. Learn to shift weight in standing.

By the end of our meal, I had given him a lot to chew on! On this topic, there is much more to do, but this is a good start for anyone. 

© Copyright 2015 Steve Hamlin