Scoliosis: The Power of Props!

How many of you have had a client with scoliosis walk into your studio and ask for a lesson? How many of you were terrified to work with this client? I not only have scoliosis myself, but also have developed a unique way to work with “scoli” clients that guarantees success, both for you and them.

Whether your new client is fused or not, I use the same three tools. They are:

  1. A wide variety of props to increase proprioception
  2. Key design elements and specific words to make my clients feel safe in my studio and empower them
  3. A strong network of people (from doctors to massage therapists) to keep these clients healthy

I look forward to showing you the value and importance of each of these tools in this guest blog series on Balanced Body’s blog.

Pilates guidance

The importance of props

Did you know scientists have proven that people with scoliosis have trouble with proprioception1? This means they don’t know where their body is in space. Need an example of proprioception? Close your eyes and touch your nose with your pointer finger. You probably did this easily, but for those with scoliosis this is quite difficult. Personally, I’m usually at least an inch away.

What does this mean for your teaching? You can cue a scoli client until you’re blue, but it will likely leave both of you very frustrated. This is why props will be your best friends with scoli clients. My favorite props are anything you have available –your creativity is the limit! The greater the variety you use, the better the feedback for your client. Here are some ideas based on what I have in my studio:

  1. Squeeze a small ball or yoga block between the knees
  2. Push or pull apart a ring
  3. Stretch a resistance band – either looped in a circle or straight
  4. Place a half-inflated ball under the sacrum in supine to help develop stability in the pelvis
  5. Place a roller parallel to a client’s spine and have them lie on top; this will force the client to de-rotate the spine in order to not fall off
  6. Do standing work on an unstable surface like a BOSU, rotator disc, foam pad or a wobble board
Pilates clients group

I also use two very important non-physical props to assist clients:

  1. Photos or videos – Use your client’s phone (so they’ll have a copy) to take a picture during an exercise. Show them this immediately after and point out how their scoli is moving.
  2. Full-length mirrors – Hold a mirror above a supine client, slide it under them when they are on all fours or place it in front of them when they are standing. Ask them to look at and correct their own body alignment.

I’ve shared some of my ideas. How will you help your scoli clients find themselves in space?

References:

1 Blecher, R., Krief, S., Galili, T., Biton, I., Stern, T., Assaraf, E., …Zelzer, E. (2017). The Proprioceptive System Masterminds Spinal Alignment: Insight into the Mechanism of Scoliosis. Developmental Cell, 42(4), 388-399. http://www.cell.com/developmental-cell/fulltext/S1534-5807(17)30598-1

Erin Myers

About Erin Myers

Erin Myers is an international presenter on scoliosis and founder of Spiral Spine, a company designed to enrich the lives of others with scoliosis. She owns Spiral Spine Pilates studio in Nashville, TN, which allows her to actively pursue her passion of helping those with scoliosis through the practice of Pilates. Erin’s teaching philosophy is simple: enriching people’s lives through anatomically correct movement. Her unrelenting mission to find the root cause of movement dysfunction, combined with a light-hearted and accessible teaching style, draws in devoted clients of all ages. Spiral Spine offers a growing set of scoliosis resources, including Erin’s books: Analyzing Scoliosis, The Beautiful Scoliotic Back , and My Scoli Journal, along with the downloadable exercise workout, Hard Core Scoli. She has multiple scoliosis continuing education videos including Untwisting Scoli: Maya and three videos with Fusion Pilates EDU titled Analyzing Scoliosis, Scoliosis Spinal Fusion, and Kids with Scoliosis. Her scoliometer app, Scoliometer by Spiral Spine, allows practitioners and users to measure vertebral and rib cage rotation, helping to better manage one’s scoli. Erin began her career as professional dancer with the Radio City Rockettes and was trained in Pilates at the Kane School of Core Integration. She is a Balanced Body Master Instructor and is Level 2 Certified in the GYROTONIC® Method. She holds a BA in Managerial Entrepreneurship from Pace University in NYC (Cum Laude), along with Certifications by the American Council on Exercise and the Pilates Method Alliance. Find Erin on Facebook and Instagram.