Case Study: Scoliosis

Over the years we have given lessons to many people, usually women, who have some degree of scoliosis (a lateral twist in the spine). Recently  2 women, each with a strong scoliosis, have commenced Alexander lessons. Why? The spinal changes involved in scoliosis are not generally considered amenable to change. However, as we have seen so often in pupils without scoliosis, apparent “structural” or “postural” or “shape” –based analyses ignore the long-term effect of Use upon structure. Bones may gradually change in response to the long-term stresses placed on them.

Kim, 38 yo, has severe scoliosis. Kim is now learning the Alexander Technique, realizing that she can make better use of her postural processes, and improve her breathing and movement. Her way of managing her general coordination (“Use” in Alexander-speak), ie postural support/breathing/movement, is of course influenced by the particulars of the twists in her spine.  Severe scoliosis notwithstanding, Kim’s first lesson revealed that there was a surprising amount of “give” in the muscles of her torso, including the ones running up and down her back, her intercostal and her core muscles and that she could, with attention, control this. The compensations and adaptations which she had entered into unconsciously to deal with the extra spinal twists, turned out to include much that was unnecessary and which was actually generating a net downward pressure along her back, something that she definitely did not need.

Starting in the usual way with considering how she balances her head, Kim is learning to “re-jig” a pattern of muscular tension which she had grown into and therefore felt normal.  It is a more complex pattern than average, but no less amenable to improvement using the Alexander Technique. The result is less downward pressure through her torso in general, and therefore less exaggeration of her spinal curves. She is learning to “collect” herself in a way that results in an integration of postural support, breathing and movement (as opposed to trying to have them work as disparate functions). Kim may always have a scoliotic spine, but she is learning a way of using it, and herself, that does not add to what she is already dealing with. She is managing her “posture” better, breathing more freely as well as moving with greater freedom.

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