Scoliosis: A Single, Daily Yoga Pose May Reduce Spinal Curve

Bridget M. Kuehn

October 09, 2014

Patients with scoliosis who held a single yoga pose for 1 to 2 minutes a day several days a week substantially reduced the curvature of their spine, according to a case series published in the September issue of Global Advances in Health and Medicine.

Scoliosis affects about 2% to 3% of the US population, according to the National Scoliosis Foundation. Current treatments include wearing a back brace for 23 hours a day, surgery, or for less severe cases, lengthy exercise regimens each day. Some studies have suggested yoga may help patients with scoliosis, and the National Scoliosis Foundation recommends 25 yoga poses to patients with the condition.

In the current case series, Loren M. Fishman, MD, from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues evaluated the effects of a yoga pose called the side plank in 25 patients with idiopathic or degenerative scoliosis. The patients had a primary curve ranging from 6 to 120 degrees. The researchers taught patients the pose and instructed them to hold the pose for 10 to 20 seconds daily for the first week. After that, patients were instructed to hold the pose for as long as possible once a day, but only on the convex, weaker side of their spine.

Radiologists or orthopedic surgeons, who were not told about the exercise, compared spinal radiographs taken at baseline and radiographs taken from 3 to 22 months after patients started the exercise regimen.

"Since scoliosis is an asymmetrical condition, I have treated it asymmetrically, asking patients to do the pose on the weaker side only. That strengthens the specific spinal muscles on the convex side that are needed to help with curve reduction," Dr Fishman said in news release.

Patients reported holding the pose for an average of 1.5 minutes. On average, patients experienced a 32.0% reduction in their primary curve (range, −50% to 72.1%; P < .001).

The 19 patients who were most adherent, completing the exercise at least four times per week, saw the greatest benefits. Adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis who completed the exercise at least four times per week had, on average, a 49.2% improvement in their primary curve (range, 0% - 72.1%; P < .001). Adherent adults with degenerative scoliosis had, on average, a 38.4% reduction in their primary curve (range, 25% - 70%).

"There may be added value for adolescents because the daily home practice of these poses is unlikely to raise the same psychological and self-esteem issues that occur with bracing as a treatment," the authors conclude.

Global Adv Health Med. 2014;3:16-21. Abstract

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