It is easy to imagine how large scoli curves can wreak havoc on one’s body, but many people are unaware of how small scoliosis curves can be just as physically and emotionally painful. I wrote in The Beautiful Scoliotic Back that bodies like balance. So, any deviation, even a small one, (i.e. small scoli curves) can create confusion in the body and cause pain.
I recently attended a yoga scoliosis workshop from Deborah Wolk, who owns Samamkaya Yoga Back Care & Scoliosis Collective Studio in New York City. When discussing large and small scoliosis curves, Deborah indicated that with large curves, part of the nervous system shuts down nerve feedback. That means a person with large curves may not always feel how much pain they are in. This shutdown doesn’t happen for people with small curves, so they can sometimes be in more pain even though their scoli is less severe. I found that concept to be fascinating, and one that I’ve been chewing on since the workshop.
This recent email I received about pain levels and small curves fits right in with that concept
You are an inspiration to me and I love watching and reading your material! Like so many others, I hope to take control of the progression of my scoliosis…I was not diagnosed with scoliosis (14 degree thoracic curve and 10 degree lumbar curve) until I was 26 years old and first began encountering problems and pain. I am now 45…and I found it interesting that my X-rays showed there were significant improvements in my thoracic curve (it decreased to 8 degrees). However I am still in a lot of pain…and I am so tired of being in pain!
-Katja W. from Florida
Here is what Katja’s scoli curves look like.
Yep, looks like an almost straight spine to me, yet Katja is still in a lot of pain.
In addition to being painful, small scoliosis curves often affect one’s self-esteem. I have a scoli client in her late 30’s that has an amazing-looking body and a small scoli curve in her lumbar spine. As a movement practitioner, I can see muscular discrepancies, but you’ve got to really know what you are looking for to find them. However, that is not how this client feels. She wouldn’t wear a swimsuit in her teens, and still won’t wear one because of how self-conscious her small curves make her feel. As far as I’m concerned, she could be a swimsuit model! This just goes to show that small curves can have just as big an impact as large ones on a person’s image and self-esteem.
I have one more interesting email to share with you from a woman named Jennifer in Hawaii. In a previous email exchange, Jennifer shared that she has an 11-degree scoli curve. I quickly quipped back “wow, 11 degrees, that’s NOTHING. Literally, your spine has to be 10 degrees in order to get a diagnosis of scoli.” This was her thought-provoking response:
Yes, my 11 degrees still impacts my life. If I’m not looking head on when sitting or talking to someone, it throws off my whole spine. Also, during my period I get what I call a “scoliosis headache”. It’s the weirdest thing. Before my period, I get unstable and everything snaps and pops and is very loose. Then during my period everything seizes up and gets tight like a rope. I know my hormones have something to do with this.
-Jennifer P. from Hawaii
Crazy, huh?! Her reply was a good reminder to me of the impact small curves have on people’s lives.
No matter what type of scoliosis you are living with, fused or unfused, 11-degrees or 67-degrees, I have a personalized list of resources to help you.
If you have a small curve, I encourage you to share your experience it in the comments.