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Sep. 13th, 2007 @ 01:11 pm Scoliosis
Current Location: home sweet home
Current Music: Watching Satin Rouge on video :)
I could use a little help from dancers who have, or know stuff about, scoliosis.

This week I went to see a new chiropractor for the first time, because my back had been getting progressively more dodgy-feeling since I stopped my regular sports-type hobbies (horseriding and bellydancing) due to moving to a new area where they weren't available, and hadn't been seeing a chiropractor because my old one quit early this year. He took some x-rays, and it appears I have developed mild scoliosis in my lumbar spine, and there is an abnormal lack of curvature in my neck. He thinks the lower back stuff was caused mostly by damage done falling off a horse a few years ago- I came off going over a jump, and caught the jump wing right on my sacro-iliac joint on the way to the ground, which I hit head-first. The damage had been managed before now through riding and dancing and regularly having my back readjusted by a professional, but since I stopped all three of those things this year, the nastier effects were able to manifest themselves in this form. Also, all my joints are hyper-mobile and this makes it much harder to find stretches etc that work for me, as well as making many normal forms of excercise (running, for instance) painful for me.

So what I'm interested in finding out is, do any of you with scoliosis find that it effects your dancing? How? Do you have any particular drills, stretches, etc that you find help? And do you find that there are some moves that you can't or shouldn't do?

More generally speaking, I'd also like some advice on putting together a practice/workout session for myself. I started dancing nearly six years ago, but I haven't been to class since November last year and I intensely dislike all the teachers in my new area, but I really want to get back into dancing. Are there videos that you'd recommend? What kind of routine do you follow when you're practicing at home? And how do you get yourself motivated to do it as often as possible?

Thanks in advance, ladies :)
About this Entry
Date:September 13th, 2007 06:57 am (UTC)
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I have scoliosis in my upper (thoracic) spine as well as arthritis in my neck (cervical spine, vertebrae 4 - 7. I do find it difficult to do downward body undulations because of these problems (although the ones in the up directions are fine). I posted about it on tribe.net and received a helpful reply from Shira of shira.net. She also gave me some helpful drills to keep my upper back mobile but as your problem is lower down I won't post those.
Here's what she said:

when I was in my 20's and learning camels, I struggled with them and my back felt very inflexible. And I didn't have arthritis to blame it on.

My suggestion is to keep trying for now, but be kind to your body in the process. Stay within a range of motion that does not provoke pain, just a bit of an edge.

I don't know enough about vertebrae to know which ones are c4 through c7, but you might want to think about some of these exercises to promote flexibility through your spine in general. Of course, do them gently, when sensitivity toward what you're feeling

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Date:September 13th, 2007 03:53 pm (UTC)
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I have problems with camels, too - I never even thought it had anything to do with my scoliosis until reading this.

Man, I'm dumb! I just thought there was some mental leap I wasn't making in translating what I was taught into what my body was doing.

I also have one hip higher than the other, because of the sideways curvage in my spine, but it doesn't seem to bother me at all - I just notice that sometimes really exaggerated hip lifts on that side look funny (like my hip is going to touch my ribs - but it never quite does!).
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Date:September 13th, 2007 05:26 pm (UTC)
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Wow, this is extremely familiar. I have a twin sister who complained of a sore back for a long time before going in and getting X rays and finding out she had no curve in her neck and that was cuasing her back problems (or a lot of them). Her chiro thought it was interesting that we were twins and said he'd give me free xrays to compare our backs, and along with her having scoliosis, I discovered that I have it as well, and my lower back was actually a little more curved if I remember correctly (I could be mistaken). My lower back used to cause me pain when I was younger and when I started dancing more than it does now, and I think that a lot of that has to do with because now I know proper technique rather than experimenting with dance and learning it.
Also, I'm a horseback rider too! I find that horseback riding (I once went on a 2 day ride, resting only to go to the bathroom and to sleep, it was torture on my back and knees but) it was the best posture lesson I've gotten. I try to sit up straight as much as possible (being a student and sitting in the curved chairs/desks makes it a challenge sometimes) but now that I'm used to it is actually I think hurst more than slouching.
and I find that the most beneficial thing for me is to use my stomach muscles. You know those ones that are really low, right above the pelvis? (They aid in pelvic tucks)....those ones are so. key. When dancing, strong muscles there help to make a strong back, so, though it is difficult to remember sometimes, whenever you can, tighten those muscles and keep them tucked in! but also while not dancing, if you can, it will help strengthen your back not just for dance, but for life too.
As for limiting your movements, I find that I can do almost everything, and so can my sister. (we're both belly dancers). Though I fractured my tailbone a few years ago and therefore find it difficult to go on long rides now, I can do most things dancing, but I avoid back bends almost completely and so does my sister. Also, the un-curve in her neck has actually started curving the wrong way, but it hasn't prevented her from things as far as I know (and we're both professional dancers and dance in the same troupe). One thing we've noticed, most apparently in her, but sometimes I do it too, is that when holding her arms out, one is usually higher than the other because of her whacked up spine, lol. It's more comical to look at than troublesome, it just takes effort to make sure they're at the same level.
If you have any questions though, ask, and I can direct her over to this entry too if you're wondering anything else/want more advice.
Good luck!
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Date:September 13th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)
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Hiya! I have a reverse curve in my neck, and most important thing I've found is to not do the complete head rolls that a lot of teachers do for "stretching" the neck. It can really hurt and downright injure me since I also have calcium deposits from a former fracture there.
I had a student a few years ago with severe scoliosis, she found that she could gently modify some of the movements with my help, but as mentioned above, the most important thing is to be as aware as possible of your own limitations, and listen to pain, as that's a warning from the body.
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Date:September 13th, 2007 11:48 pm (UTC)

Two cents from the bionic bellydancer!

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I actually have two titanium rods screwed into the length of my spine as a result of scoliosis, plus osteoarthritis (also a result of the scoliosis)... and dancing has really helped me with it. (It's strengthened my core muscles, which helped my torso support itself better. Well, better than the rods, which without the muscle tone would really just sort of make me look like a scarecrow with a pole up my rear end...)

I have issues with undulations, because while everyone else has the ability to, well, undulate their spines forward and backward, I can er... bend at the waist. (;

But what I've done to compensate is to just make them more of full-body undulations, and try to work on the more muscular aspects of it.
Date:September 17th, 2007 07:59 pm (UTC)

Re: Two cents from the bionic bellydancer!

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I was recommended to get this surgery but was afraid it would only be cosmetic and limit my profession BELLY DANCING :( I would cry! So I didn't look into it so much. Does this effect your figure eights and isolations. I have a tribal background so I utilize these techniques. I'm not worried about undulations because I have muscle control from 8 yrs. of belly dance...

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Date:September 18th, 2007 11:33 pm (UTC)

Re: Two cents from the bionic bellydancer!

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Surgery is nearly always a last resort. (I went through chiropractic treatments, lifts in my shoes, and finally a plastic brace for three years, before they recommended surgery. So, trust me - it's NOT for cosmetic reasons! If your curves get bad enough, your ribs will start to crunch, and could not only constrict your breathing, they could puncture a lung.

Don't get me wrong, it does help, cosmetically. I went from looking as if I was permanently angling my shoulders and tilting my head, to sort of straight... and gained three and a half inches in height. (I went in 4'10" and came out just over 5'1", and I'm still not totally straight!)

Anyway, since I didn't start bellydancing until more than a decade after the surgery, I couldn't really compare it with abilities. Since figure eights are mostly pelvic movements, I don't see this affecting them. My isolations... I sometimes will just exaggerate other movements, when I can't physically move the way I want to...

My instructor (the fabulous d_c_m tells me I shouldn't even really need to exaggerate - to just do what I can, and even try to focus on individual muscle groups... and even make some of the movements subtler.
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Date:September 14th, 2007 02:53 am (UTC)
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I have a lot of back issues (had surgery to remove a spinal tumour a few years ago; the tumour issue had caused scoliosis and other things), and I haven't found that it has affected my dancing too much. Regular visits to the chiropractor help a lot. My main problem is overdoing it (i.e. teaching a class and then doing an hour or more of my own practice and training), which leaves my back in spasm. So my advice from my experience is not to go too long in each session, or work your way up, making sure to warm up well before and cool down after, doing various stretches (yoga has a lot) for your spine.
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Date:September 14th, 2007 03:03 am (UTC)
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This is pretty unrelated, but I ride horses and bellydance too! (:
Date:September 15th, 2007 09:49 am (UTC)
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I have that. I believe dancing helps - though there are just a couple of moves (shimmy walking) that I feel a little anxious about sometimes and just take care with.

The best thing i've found is swimming.
Seems to really help.

Good luck.
Date:September 17th, 2007 07:48 pm (UTC)

A fellow dancer with scoliosis

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Hey. I am a belly dance teacher and performer with severe scoliosis. I love belly dance because it relieves all that muscle tension cause by the curves. Keep active or you'll end up with it....bad! I've always been active but I was born with scoliosis and wasn't diagnosed till I was a freshman in High School. Because of the unique movements of belly dance and the emphasis on your abdominals it helps tremendously. Keep with it! Oh and the lack of a curve in your neck is very common with scoliosis, I also have this problem.