Sometimes spinal alignment can be helped by exercise

I received a nice letter from a woman who wished information about a misalignment of the spine called scoliosis. I'm going to expand this column to include two other spine problems called kyphosis and lordosis. All three are vertebral column pathological posture misalignments.

Starting with scoliosis, it denotes an extreme mediolateral curvature in the thoracic area of the body. When you look at someone with that problem from the back you see a lateral curvature of the spine that throws one hip higher than the other and one shoulder lower. It puts extra pressure on one side of the body, especially if you participate in some type of endurance or contact exercise (running, aerobics, etc.). Scoliosis usually throws one leg longer than the other, making for more impact on the longer leg side of the body. You often end up with a sore hip, knee or into the base of the neck. If a child is caught early enough, scoliosis can be helped with exercise and/or bracing of the back. Slight scoliosis can sometimes be helped with a lift in the shoe of the shorter leg. Severe cases of scoliosis are best if handled by a specialist.

Kyphosis, or as it is sometimes called "flat back," is an exaggerated sagittal curvature of the thoracic area of the back. Older women seem to be more susceptible to this condition because of problems with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Strengthening of the vertebral column flexors in the thoracic area can help if the problem is gravity induced. The condition is noticeable as rounded shoulders. The shoulder girdle retraction works constantly to try to bring the shoulder back. Again, special forms of exercise will help to strengthen muscles that are needed to pull the shoulders back into alignment.

Lordosis, often called sway back, is an exaggerated sagittal curvature of the lumbar area. Tight lumbar extensors pull up and tight hip flexors pull down. Picture a pregnant woman, a gymnast with hyperextension of the back, the guy with a large tummy and those who own weak abdominals. To help this condition, stretch the hip flexors and the extensor muscles and strengthen the abdominals and the hamstrings.

If lordosis, scoliosis and kyphosis are not congenital, they can usually be helped with some form of exercise movement. It is best to involve a specialist who can set you up with a program to strengthen and stretch integral areas to help the misalignment. I have a slight scoliosis and I have a set pattern of exercises that were given to me to help counteract my imbalance. The key is to do the exercises daily, even several times a day. Believe me, it does help. I couldn't be doing what I'm doing at my advanced age without it.

- Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Senior Center.


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