Working with the Breath – Scoliosis and Spinal Fusions

Woman with spinal fusion and scoliosis sitting on mountain top meditating and practicing pranayama

I listened to an episode of The Scoliosis Warrior Podcast where Eva Butterly interviewed Dr. Peter Newton.  Dr. Newton is an orthopedic surgeon and also the current president of the Scoliosis Research Society.  One of the questions he fielded was about managing chronic pain when it comes to spinal fusions and scoliosis, “I think one of the things we can do to combat chronic pain in the back is to increase fitness. I think it turns out one of the most successful strategies is to maintain core strength, maintain flexibility, and work on aerobic fitness.”  He quickly acknowledged that this can be very, very difficult when someone is in chronic pain.

This week I’m also reading Breathing for Peak Performance by Eric Franklin (my Brooklyn neighbor!).  And on the very last page he writes, “Having a daily routine to create more optimal breathing is one of the most important activities you can do to improve your movement skills and health.”

I love that breath helps us move better and improves our health in many ways.  The yoga tradition refers to the breath as pranayama, which literally translates to prana – life force and ayama – to extend or draw out.  The early yogis found that evening out the breath could also calm the mind.  What an excellent tool for all of us living in this modern world as well as those experiencing chronic pain!

Other movement modalities also place great importance on the breath.  Joseph Pilates was adamant about deep breathing.  Leading with the breath in Pilates-based exercises can either facilitate or challenge movement; thus, breath becomes a tool to employ based upon the individual.  Meanwhile, the work of Gray Cook and the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) places breath or crocodile breathing as the first corrective exercise to improve movement with the thought that better diaphragmatic action relates to improved thoracic spine movement, improved motor control or patterning, and improved parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system balance.

I believe that if someone is experiencing chronic pain the breath can serve as a bridge to ease of movement and eventually to “fitness.”  And because so many movement modalities focus upon the breath there are many different paths to “fitness.”  I believe firmly that you should choose a way to move that you love (fitness) and then do so mindfully (incorporating the breath).

 

In health and happiness,

Jen