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Massage Therapy and Scoliosis

First things first, as always consult a physician before getting a massage if you have scoliosis - JUST TO BE SURE, especially IF you have any doubts. Every spine is different as is every case of scoliosis. Certain medications or pre-existing conditions can and will affect the quality of the massage, based on the probable limitations of the amount of pressure being given as well as the active and passive range of motion stretches that may be administered by your favorite Licensed Massage Therapist.

I, Tom Vogliardo of Feel Awesome LLC, do not represent a medical journal of any type. I am also NOT a doctor or a Pulitzer Prize winning author (sadly). I write these blogs for fun because I love massage therapy, love informing people on certain massage topics from time-to-time, and because I want you to know that I am ready, willing, and able to do my own research for ANY of my clients in order to serve them better.

Now that that liability stuff is out of the way, let's get on to the SCOLIOSIS!

What I know

When I work on a person with scoliosis, I know several things right away. Some of these things are obvious, and others are not.

  • There will be a C-Curve (1 curve) or an S-Curve (2 curves).

  • There will be Convex side and a Concave side.

  • The Convex side of the curve will be the most muscular at the curve.

  • The Concave side of the curve will most likely show fatty deposits and *fibrosing.

  • There will probably be a high-low side; FOR EXAMPLE: if the Low Right side is the Convex side of the curve (the muscular side), then the High Left side will be very muscular (and vice versa) due to the *compensatory curve.

*Fibrosing is the process of muscle fibrosis. Muscle fibrosis impairs muscle function and regeneration after an injury. Fibrosis is a major cause of muscle weakness and is common in muscular dystrophies, aging, and severe muscle injuries.

*Compensatory Curves are the result of your spine self-correcting. This is a secondary curve. This is your body's natural reaction of losing its center of gravity. There are a couple of ways to experiment this on yourself.

  • Put a wedge in one of your shoes. Walk around for a while. Your back will probably start feeling discomfort. What is happening is your spine is curving in order for your eyes to remain on a horizontal plane.

  • Put a baby on your hip. If you think your spine is going to remain straight, you've probably never had a baby on your hip. We live in automatic and self-correcting bodies.

What I need to know *

  • Why are you here to see me?

  • Pain? Chronic or acute? If so, where and for how long?

  • Do you currently have an active lifestyle? Exercising/Stretching/Yoga?

  • Have you had a massage before? Have you had bodywork of any kind before?

  • Do you have pins, screws, rods, fusions?

  • Herniated or Bulging discs? Currently or previously?

  • Nerve pain, ever?

  • Did the curvature occur as a child or has this been adult-onset? (very important)

*This is why I have an intake form and talk for a few minutes before each and every session that comes to Feel Awesome (LLC).

Scoliosis is a complex subject for a multitude of reasons. I will mention a few topics but will not get into Scoliosis in great depth because there are a lot of things that I, as a NON-Doctor do not know.

  • First of all, the vast majority of Scoliosis cases are *idiopathic.

  • Along with lateral curves (side to side) the spine may also bend anteriorly and posteriorly (front to back).

  • The individual vertebrae are highly movable, (Flexion, Extension, Rotation, and Lateral Flexion) so they may result in many separate dysfunctions within a dysfunction.

  • The ribcage is a complex system in itself and may be greatly deformed by scoliosis. Think of all the organs inside that thing. Yea, see where I am going with this? Lungs, digestive system, nervous system.

  • Nerve issues due to spinal compression into surrounding soft tissues.

  • Range of motion issues which may result in nerve issues due to chronic hypertonicity.

  • I am sure this list could go on for a while...Not to mention the mental stress and chronic pain that is felt by many sufferers of scoliosis.

*Idiopathic means the cause is spontaneous and/or the cause is unknown

All of this mentioned above dictates how I will work on somebody and THAT IS A LOT TO CONSIDER. Especially when I only have 60 or 90 minutes to do my magic.

Tidbits and Conclusion

There are 2 ways that a massage therapist may approach a person with scoliosis.

  1. Treating the actual scoliosis

  2. Treating the symptoms of scoliosis (Muscle Spasms, tightness, pain, range of motion loss)

Scoliosis is a structural problem. I cannot manipulate the skeletal system and I will not be putting rods in your back. I don't get paid enough. Treating the symptoms is 99% of what I do with my scoliosis cases. Treating the actual scoliosis would imply that the curve can be corrected - and some actually can.

Functional Curves also known as postural or NON-structural curves, may be voluntarily altered or reversed by positional changes or muscular action. They can be corrected with passive soft tissue stretching, joint mobilization, and active strengthening.

Structural Curves are fixed due to bony changes and cannot be corrected by voluntary effort. They usually have a childhood onset, and corrections requires braces or surgery.

In my professional opinion, exercise is the best way to regain, retain, and improve function within all of the bodily systems. The muscular system is a complex pulley system. Some pulleys are in need of tightening, while some are too tight and need to be stretched out. That is my job. This is what I do.

I left a lot out. I don't want to write this thing forever and I have people to work on.

Talk to your doctor about your scoliosis. Give me a call. Go home feeling awesome.

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