I recently ran a giveaway over on Instagram called Scoli September. One of the contests asked a few true/false questions, including, “can scoliosis get worse with age?” This is one of the many questions about scoliosis that is surrounded by confusion. Think you know the answer? Read on and see…
I was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 14 with a 17 degree in my thoracic spine. In my 20s I gave birth to two healthy boys over a two year time period. When my youngest son was about a year old I decided to have an x-ray taken of my spine to put in the book I was working on, The Beautiful Scoliotic Back. To my horror, my scoliosis had gotten worse with age. My upper curve had increased to 35 degrees, and I now had a lumbar curve of 25 degrees. When I was younger I was not told that my scoli curvature could increase after I was done growing. It turns out it can, especially during times when your hormones fluctuate—like during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
In my 30s I decided to prioritize my body, and I was able to get my scoli back under control, decreasing my curvature and pain. Currently my top curve is in the upper teens and my lower curve is less than 10 degrees. Since scoliosis is defined as a lateral curve of the spine of 10 degrees or more, I technically now only have an upper curve.
There was nothing magical about me decreasing my curves. I put together my dream team, figured out my scoli schedule, and stuck to it. My dream team consists of teaching myself Pilates and Gyrotonic lessons, taking private and group Pilates classes from teachers at my studio, and having regular appointments with a structural integrator and a neuromuscular massage therapist.
For my scoli schedule, I learned to listen to my body and figured out what my scoli needed. I know I have to move many days a week otherwise I lock up. I also learned which movements sooth my scoli and help it untwist the best. Finally, I figured out that I need body work every two weeks. If I keep on that schedule, my scoli doesn’t really bother me and more importantly, it doesn’t control my life.
It wasn’t rocket science or an expensive brace that helped my scoliosis, it was regular, daily movement and help from a few key professionals. You can do this too!
To answer the question posed in the title of this blog (and on the Scoli September Instagram contest), yes, scoli can worsen as you age. That doesn’t have to be the end of your scoli story, however. You can rewrite it and decrease your scoliosis as an adult. I have found it is never too late to start. You have to own your scoli care—otherwise your scoliosis will own you.
To start owning your scoliosis, figure out what movements your body likes. If you don’t know, start with the multiple scoliosis workouts I’ve created that people around the world with scoli love. Do them often. I also recommend keeping a record of how you feel after each workout so you can figure out exactly what movements your body likes and doesn’t like. If you’d like an additional tool to measure how your body responds, I suggest a scoliometer (more about that here).
Next, start the quest to find a great manual therapist in your town. You’re not looking for a massage therapist that you would find at a spa (although that does feel wonderful). You’re looking for someone who can help unwind some pretty tight tissue in your body. If you’d like more guidance and tips on how to start searching, check out the starting point series, specifically video 5.
If you want in-person guidance on what movements your body needs, come visit my staff and me at Spiral Spine Pilates Studio in Nashville, TN. We offer 2-day Scoliosis Intensive Workshops multiples times a year where kids and adults with scoliosis, along with practitioners who want to learn how to help those with scoliosis come and learn. You’ll learn a lot, have fun, and realize you’re not on this journey all by yourself.
Your scoli didn’t end up the way it is currently in one day, and therefore, it’s not going to go away in a day either. Be diligent. Learn to love movement. Listen to your body—it talks to you all the time, my guess is you just need to listen to it. Don’t let the fact that your scoliosis worsened as an adult control your life; instead, get scoli strong.
If you’re interested in more scoliosis resources, I have lists tailored to people in specific scoliosis populations (kids, practitioners, fused) on my website.