You're probably familiar with Scoliosis, a condition where the spine curves sideways into a C or S-shaped appearance from the back. Individuals with Scoliosis can suffer from shortened stature, physical deformation of their vertebrae, many physical pains and even lung and heart problems in severe cases.
It is commonly believed that around 65% of scoliosis is "idiopathic", meaning that we don't have a known cause for it. But could this be yet another case where Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy has some answers for us?
President Kennedy's personal physician and pioneer of the field, Dr. Janet Travell, found that many of us are already predisposed to developing a type of scoliosis called "Functional Scoliosis". Functional Scoliosis is a sideways curve in our spines that develops due to physical factors we can correct ourselves.
As an example, when one of our legs is shorter than the other, it causes us to slightly lean to that side (as in the drawing). This tilts the base of the spine (sacrum) and forces the spine to curve in compensation to keep us standing up straight. As a solution, using a heel lift (as shown) under the short leg can relieve the need for the compensating curve in the spine, thereby preventing the progression of Functional Scoliosis.
In today's modern lifestyle, sitting is a practically a marathon event. Many of us are sitting as much as 8 or more hours per day. That's more than most professional or Olympic athletes practice their sports. If there were a physical factor that caused Functional Scoliosis while we sit, that would be one of the most important factors to correct to keep our spines straight and healthy throughout our lives.
Indeed there is such a factor and it is the subject of this update. This factor is called a Small Hemipelvis.
Having a Small Hemipelvis means that one half of the pelvis is slightly smaller than the other. When you sit, you sit on two bones at the bottom of your pelvis - your "sit bones" - technically called the Ischium on both sides. Like a short leg, a Small Hemipelvis means that the Ischium on one side is higher than the other, causing the base of the spine to tilt, especially when sitting.
In the diagram, Hemipelvis B is smaller than Hemipelvis A. As a result, the spine is tilting to the right side. Notice the curvature that compensates so that the individual can sit up straight. Sitting for 8 hours a day can start to cause major physical issues over time for this individual.
Having a Small Hemipelvis affects us to varying degrees. Some of us may develop visible curvatures in our spines. Many of us suffer from low back pain, mid back pain, shoulder problems and especially neck pain, headaches and TMJ (jaw pain).
The good news is that this form of Functional Scoliosis and accompanying symptoms can be addressed with a simple solution, called an Ischial Lift. Like the heel lift for a short leg, an Ischial lift does the compensating for the Small Hemipelvis so that the spine and muscles don't have to.
The diagram to the left shows how placing an Ischial lift under the right side compensates for the Small Hemipelvis. Note how the spine straightens. The muscles all along the spine from the low back up to the neck no longer have to strain to keep the individual upright when sitting.
This relief of strain is sometimes so dramatic, severe pains are alleviated in a short period of time. A recent patient who had been dealing with chronic pain in her back expressed her relief in tears when an Ischial lift was placed under her Small Hemipelvis.
Dr. Janet Travell and other trigger point therapists since her time have found that using this simple technique can prevent, improve and even correct many cases of Functional Scoliosis.
Perform the quick Self-Assessment below to get a good idea whether you have a Small Hemipelvis or not. As always, if you need assistance, your myofascial trigger point therapist is a great resource.
*The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition and does not substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional. Please consult your physician to determine whether these self-care tips are appropriate for you.