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Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Journey With Scoliosis: Part Two [and related exercise reviews]

This is a continuation of my story with scoliosis. Read part one here


The past six months, I have been on a new journey with my scoliosis. I am not naive enough to believe that I will ever have a perfectly straight spine. But I am on a journey to ease my pain, make my curve stay the same or get better, and to love my back. 

This is an x-ray of a normal spine.
In my last post, I mentioned that sitting with my heating pad is a daily ritual. Not anymore. I talked to multiple professionals and they all agreed that ice is better than heat for long-term conditions. The heat could do more damage and cause inflammation. So I sadly put my heating pad back in the drawer and bought some flexible ice pads. I hate being cold. Putting a freezing bag on your back is not as cozy and comfortable as curling up with a heating pad. But, you know what? I used the ice every day for a week. And then I didn’t really need it. So I went a week, then two weeks without it. Now I just use it when I am in a ton of pain. I think I was growing dependent on the heat. Every night I would use it to temporarily soothe the pain, but it would inflame my back and I would need it again the next day. It created a vicious cycle. 

Another thing that may contribute to my reduced need for ice is yoga. I love yoga. I usually go right before I eat my lunch. It is a great break in the middle of the day. It helps you forget the stress from the first half of the day and reduce worry for the rest of the day. It stretches out all of my muscles and I can feel my back growing stronger. I have been going to a studio two to three times a week the past few months, and I can tell the difference in my pain levels if I skip it for a week. Every practice, we are asked to sit and think about our reasons for coming to yoga that day. Then we can choose to dedicate our practice to that reason. It really helps put focus on my back and strengthening it. 

I also just got a gym membership so I can go swimming, even in the winter. I am not a strong swimmer. I don’t really like to swim. But this is about my back, not me. In my next post, I will give an update on my adventures in swimming [if I don’t drown. Luckily they have lifeguards]. 

Since exercise has been the main focus of improving my back the past few months, I wanted to share some DVDs that I have found helpful on days that I cannot make it out to the yoga studio or gym. [Like today when the roads are icy.]

X-ray of my lower back from 2015.
X-ray of my upper back from 2015.



Hard Core Scoli DVD


This DVD was led by Erin Myers, who wrote two of the books that I reviewed in my last scoliosis post. She was very enthusiastic in the video, which made it very engaging. Erin takes the viewer through forty minutes of core stretches and exercises specifically for people with scoliosis. She also gave very clear directions, so it was easy to follow. 

I liked that she started off the video with some warm ups. I could feel the stretch in my back. My biggest fear going into this DVD was that it was going to be a cardio ab workout. I know the importance of building up core strength with scoliosis, but I hate doing forty minutes of ab burning workouts. This didn’t feel like that. I sped up my heart rate and I could feel the burn at some parts, but it was the perfect amount. 

Another fear I have with workouts is if it will hurt my back. I did not feel any back pain with this video. In fact, Erin provides a guide for individualizing some of the exercises based on your curve. This makes it clear that she understands that not all backs are the same, therefore, they may need some slight adjustments to avoid pain and maximize the benefits. I did start to get a stiff neck by the end of the video (which is common for me when I work out my core). So my only suggestion would be to include some neck strengthening exercises too [scoliosis impacts the whole body, after all]. 

Even if you don’t have scoliosis, this is a great core-strengthening video. It relaxes your back, but it also is workout [and requires only a chair, a mirror, and a towel]. It is really an amazing resource for people with back pain and scoliosis. It is a challenge to find quality videos that can be personalized for spine curvature. Great job, Erin! If you are interested in buying the DVD, you can buy it here. After you have watched it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

 5/5 Stars
*****


Yoga for “A Healthy Back” DVD


This video is led by Marlon Braccia. She is a yogi, so she does not have the enthusiastic demeanor of Erin Myers. She talks slowly and softly. Which makes this a very relaxing and therapeutic video, but it is not a workout. I could feel the stretch in my back and shoulders, but I did not feel a burn or get my heart rate up. Those aren’t negatives, I just want to give everyone an idea of what this video provides. It would be great for bedtime because it is very slow paced, and I felt like taking a nap afterwards. 

Marlon could have made this video better by preparing her timing a little bit better. She spends a lot of time talking in between poses, rather than while the audience is doing the poses, so the videos ended being a lot longer than necessary. There are three parts to this video: Relax Your Back, Strengthen Your Back, and Strong Back. Each of these parts is 25 minutes, so it is awkward timing. I think it is beneficial to do all three in a work out, but 75 minutes is too long, especially when the video is slow paced. 

This video is meant for just back pain, not specifically scoliosis, so there is no opportunity for customization. She gives a couple variations to make a few of the poses easier or harder, but everyone will be getting about the same workout. I think this video would be good for someone who is currently experiencing pain. They could slowly do these stretches to work out the pain [although, I feel like I tweaked my shoulder a bit during this one, so I will need to ice it to see if the pain goes away]. 

I like that this video doesn’t require any extra props (just a towel or yoga mat). And I do feel like it stretched out my back. But it was pretty boring, so if I am going to grab a video to do, this is probably the last one I would want to grab. It is also an older video, so it looks very dated (not an issue, just an observation). If you like slow, relaxing yoga to help with back pain, this video is for you! If you are interested in buying the DVD, you can buy it here. After you have watched it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

 3/5 Stars

*****



Yoga for Scoliosis DVD


This video is led by Elise Browning Miller. This one does require a lot of props to receive the full benefit [yoga mat, two yoga blocks, firm blankets, exercise ball, 10 foot yoga belt, another belt or tie, and a chair]. These props help ensure that you can adjust your body based on your scoliotic curve. Elise really seems to understand the struggles of severe scoliosis and how to customize exercises to help the upper and lower curves. She does this video with three other people, all of whom have different types of curves. I love this because you can pick the person who has the curve most similar to yourself so you can customize the exercises the same way that they do.   You do have to know the name and direction of your curve for this to really work [you can just ask whatever doctor did your latest x-rays]. 

The video is set up as one long track, so you may have to fast forward a bit to get to the actual exercise part (the intro explains curves and how to use the video). The exercise portion is about 50 minutes total, which I think is the perfect length for a video like this. 

She explains the positions as a voice over, so she can do all the positions as you are doing them. This makes this video a lot more fast paced than the “Healthy Back” DVD. The poses are held for a while, but there doesn’t seem to be as much “lost time” in explanations and changing positions. It does help to have all of the props nearby to allow for quick transitions. 

I felt amazing after this video! No extra pain or strain was added when I was done. I think this video could be perfect for the morning or night. I felt rejuvenated, but also relaxed. 

This video is really amazing for pain relief and relaxation for people with scoliosis, but I think it would be great for anyone with any type of back pain too. If you are interested in buying the DVD, you can buy it here. After you have watched it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

 5/5 Stars

*****

o Amber Gregg o