How Rolfing Helps Scoliosis Patients
May 27, 2017 01:57PM
By Thomas Findley, MD, PhD, and Edward Hemberger, LMT
Scoliosis is a major concern for teens and adults. Scoliosis is the abnormal sideways curvature of the spine, also called an S-curvature and C-curvature. In the absence of physical injury or trauma, the cause of scoliosis is unknown, which is why it’s called idiopathic (unknown origin).
While Western medical literature holds that there is no cure for scoliosis, people who have the condition are often subjected to wearing restrictive braces or undergoing invasive surgery to install metal rods that support the spine and prevent it from further curvature. Unfortunately, these interventions aren’t always successful and in some cases, such as surgical intervention, can cause additional pain due to a stiff, inflexible spine.
Let’s look at scoliosis in a new way—if we look not at the bones but at the things that keep the bones in place, the soft tissue structures, we can see that the musculature is imbalanced side to side in a person with scoliosis. One side is too tight, pulling the spine sideways, and the other side is too loose, letting the spine get pulled.
Obviously, something in the wiring of a person with scoliosis got a little mixed up. Why is one side so tight and the other too loose? Because of a little thing called proprioception—your body’s orientation in space. Proprioception is what keeps you from banging into doorways and sticking your fork in your eye. It’s how you know where your feet are.
Studies have shown that people with scoliosis have a less refined sense of proprioception. Somehow, they’ve lost their sense of space. The first thing we do as babies once we are born (along with breathing, of course) is orient to ground and sky. Which way is up, which way is down? Preliminary theories suggest that scoliosis people either failed to do this initially or lost it somewhere along the road.
So, back to the question of whether or not Rolfing works for scoliosis. If the person is young enough, the curve can be greatly reduced, almost to a level of imperceptibility. In adults, the changes are slower because the bones have actually changed shape to fit together into an s-curvature; however, it’s possible to see tremendous restoration of mobility and flexibility within one to three sessions.
Pain is another complaint of those who have scoliosis, and while doctors may assert that scoliosis doesn’t cause pain, patients beg to differ. Their backs are stiff and sore from holding themselves upright with a crooked body. As the tight muscles relax, the pain diminishes rapidly, and increased mobility means not having to brace so much throughout the day.
As the scoliosis patient walks into the Rolfing Clinic, the Rolfer assesses the person’s posture and structural balance to ascertain the extent of the imbalance on the feet, knees or pelvic area as well as gauging any other outward indicators of scoliosis symptoms.
Rolfing is used as a means to improve these conditions by realigning and lengthening the shortened connective tissue that wraps around the muscles. In other words, it de-rotates this connective tissue. This improves posture and movement, which can help reduce or eliminate the headaches, back pain, shoulder and neck pain that is brought on by scoliosis.
Rolfing specializes in de-rotating the connective tissue of the thorax and entire body to bring a certain level of balance and peace to beings with scoliosis. The Rolfing technology takes the whole being into consideration when exploring how to work with each individual, seeing them for more than just the product of their environmental conditioning. Certified Rolfing has the capacity to release, realign, and balance the whole body.
Edward Hemberger, LMT and Dr. Thomas Findley, MD.PhD, Certified Advanced Rolfer, Structural Integration Practitioners work at the VA Hospital in East Orange, Hackensack, Manhattan, Livingston, and Boonton. For information, contact them at 973-462-3112. HembergerStructuralIntegration.com.