Scoliosis is a devastating disease that we still don’t know much about. Characterized by a lateral curve of the spine, scoliosis leaves people with a humped back. Not only can this be very painful, but it also affects how they go about their life. For many people, it will eventually land them in a wheelchair. This is what happened to 86-year-old Anna Pesce. When nothing else seemed to be easing her pain, she turned to yoga – and today, she stands tall and pain-free. This is her story.
Grandma Practices Yoga for Scoliosis
Anna Pesce had been battling scoliosis for decades. It had gotten so bad that she found herself in a wheelchair. She was in pain nearly all the time, with nothing giving her permanent relief. On the advice of her doctor, she had tried chiropractors, acupuncture, physiotherapy, and the like. While all provided temporary relief, she was in pain again soon after. On top of that, she was so hunched over that it was impeding on her enjoyment of life. That’s when her daughter found out about a yoga teacher who specializes in back problems, Rachel Jesien. (1)
Rachel began coming over to Anna’s house once a week for yoga sessions. The sessions focused on poses that would relieve the pain and pressure she was feeling, as well as ones that helped to strengthen her muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Rachel also taught Anna how to perform these poses on her own, so that she could practice regularly and use specific ones to relieve pain when necessary. Miraculously, Anna was standing tall, walking, and mostly pain-free in just one month. While the transformation was nothing short of incredible, yoga, while helpful, may not have been the only treatment at play.
Can Yoga Heal Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a medical condition characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine. It can cause discomfort, pain, and limited mobility in affected individuals. While yoga is often recommended for improving flexibility and strength, can it really heal scoliosis? Let’s explore the potential benefits of yoga for scoliosis and delve into the scientific research surrounding this topic. (2)
Read: Yoga Poses: The Health Benefits of Legs Up The Wall (viparita karani)
Before delving into the potential benefits of yoga, it’s important to understand what scoliosis is. Scoliosis can develop in childhood or during adolescence, and in some cases, it may be present from birth. The severity of the curvature can vary greatly, ranging from mild to severe cases. Depending on the degree of the curvature, scoliosis can cause pain, muscle imbalances, and limitations in movement.
How Yoga Can Help
- Strengthening Core Muscles: Yoga focuses on building strength in the core muscles, including the muscles around the spine. Strengthening these muscles can help to provide support to the spine and improve overall posture.
- Lengthening the Spine: Certain yoga poses involve backbends, forward bends, and twists, which can help lengthen the spine and alleviate some of the tightness caused by scoliosis.
- Improving Flexibility: Scoliosis can cause muscle imbalances and stiffness, resulting in reduced flexibility. Yoga promotes flexibility through various stretches and poses, which may help to reduce pain and improve range of motion.
- Enhancing Body Awareness: Practicing yoga can help individuals with scoliosis become more aware of their body alignment and posture. This heightened body awareness can encourage them to make conscious efforts to improve their posture and maintain proper spinal alignment in their everyday lives.
- Reducing Stress and Pain: Yoga incorporates breathing exercises and meditation techniques that can help to reduce stress and pain. While yoga may not directly heal scoliosis, it can potentially alleviate associated symptoms and improve overall well-being.
Although anecdotal evidence suggests that yoga can be beneficial for scoliosis, there is a lack of extensive scientific research specifically focused on this topic. Some studies have explored the general effects of yoga on back pain and posture improvement, but few studies have specifically examined the impact of yoga on scoliosis.
However, a small pilot study published in the journal Prosthetics and Orthotics International in 2016 showed promising results. The study involved a 6-month yoga intervention for adolescents with scoliosis. The participants reported improvements in pain, self-image, and quality of life. However, it’s worth noting that this study had limitations and a small sample size, so further research is necessary to draw definitive conclusions. (3)
Considerations and Precautions
Before starting any form of exercise, including yoga, individuals with scoliosis should consult with a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or physical therapist. They can provide personalized advice, taking into account the severity of the curvature and individual limitations. One of the most important considerations is whether or not the scoliosis is flexible or rigid. Flexible scoliosis is often in part caused by weak muscles in the core and back, so in these cases yoga will help to improve that. For rigid scoliosis, however, surgery is truthfully the only fix. Yoga will not help, and could even potentially harm the patient. (4)
It’s important to remember that while yoga may have some potential benefits, it should not be considered a standalone treatment for scoliosis. It should be viewed as a complementary therapy in conjunction with other treatments, such as physical therapy, bracing, or surgery, depending on the severity of the condition. In fact, a follow-up article by Snopes casts doubt on the initial story. While they concluded that yoga may have played a role, other therapies were most likely at play.
The Bottom Line
Yoga has the potential to be a beneficial addition to a comprehensive treatment plan for scoliosis. It can help strengthen core muscles, improve flexibility, enhance body awareness, reduce stress and pain, and may have positive effects on self-image and quality of life. Anna Pesce’s story is incredible and inspiring. However, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any exercise regimen, including yoga, to ensure it is safe and appropriate for individual needs. Further scientific research is warranted to establish the specific benefits and limitations of yoga in managing scoliosis.
Keep Reading: Yoga for Sciatica: 8 Poses in 8 Minutes for Back Pain Relief
- “How Yoga for Scoliosis Helped an 86-year-old Woman Transform Her Body | New York Post.” Youtube. New York Post.
- “Yoga Shown to Reverse Scoliosis.” Health Central. Loren M. Fishman, M.D.. July 6, 2021.
- “The effectiveness of core stabilization exercise in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: A randomized controlled trial.” Research Gate. Gozde Yagci, et al. September 2016.
- “Yoga Cured an Elderly Woman’s Curved and Painful Back?” Snopes. Bethania Palma. August 17, 2016.