So I’m going to write a little about Pilates as a treatment for scoliosis. I have not had the spinal fusion surgery, and I was doing Pilates for about a year and a half, once or twice a week.
The idea behind doing Pilates is similar to the one behind a lot of alternative options to the surgery: that the reason we hold our spines funny is because some muscles are really weak, and they’re not doing any work, giving us bad posture. Then the other muscles have to pick up the slack, fixing us in that bad posture. So to help with it, you have to build the weak muscles up. Unfortunately this is often pretty hard to do, as they are usually deep, internal muscles that your regular gym workout wont even touch.
When I took up Pilates, I was lucky enough to have a tutor who had actually straightened her own spine completely through Pilates. She did it by 2 to 3 years of intensive Pilates, and now obviously she is a Pilates tutor so she can easily keep doing it every day. Her spine is perfectly straight, and I believe when she began Pilates it was about 40 degrees. If she doesn’t do any exercises for a month or so, she sees her scoliosis starting to come back. But we all know that nothing, even the spinal fusion surgery, will fix our backs forever, without any “maintenance” as I call it.
When I began Pilates, I found the exercises really tiring and difficult, and I felt hopeless that it wasn’t going to work for me. But my tutor encouraged me to keep going, and after a few months things became a lot easier and I had to be given new exercises and more reps.
After about a year, I noticed some big changes, starting with my feet. I tried on some shoes that I hadn’t worn in several months, and although my feet hadn’t grown, they felt all wrong. I realised that all the reminders of not turning my right foot out, and standing more on the balls of my feet than my heels, had really payed off and I now stood completely differently.
Then I realised my abs were basically rock solid, and I was getting some muscle definition in my stick thin arms (my legs were already great from soccer). I realised that Pilates had trained me into standing with good posture. It became almost a habit to shift my ribcage over, pull my ribs and stomach in, turn my knees out and pull my right shoulder down.
With the help of a mirror (I’m sure you’re all familiar with the feeling of not knowing if you’re standing straight or not) I was able to stand almost perfectly straight, although I couldn’t hold it for long at first, but that got better with practice. I would spend up to half an hour a day just standing in front of the mirror in my underwear, practicing good posture.
I have no doubt that with a high level of intense Pilates, I could straighten my spine just like my tutor has. However, this year I am giving up everything scoliosis related (except the dietary changes I was told to make) to focus on my studies as it’s my last year of high school. Next year, I hope to visit the Schroth Clinic in Germany, but if I don’t, intensive Pilates will be my second option.
If you have the time and motivation for it, and you find someone who knows what they’re talking about when it comes to Pilates for scoliosis, I would seriously recommend you try it.