Nutrition & Exercise for Scoliosis

In this Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/episode/39o3lOfUUDMfInEN6ANWAu,

at about 11 mins in, Erin Meyers talks about chapter 13 in her book: I have Scoliosis; Now What?

Erin talks about her sending a patient down to a Functional Medicine Therapist (Functional Medicine Therapists do blood tests, find out what you are short of and recommend supplements to re-fill them – and other similar things). She was saying that this patient’s scoliosis stabilised now the nutritional deficiencies were corrected. Given that lots of scoliosis is spotted early when it is small… and then they wait to see, and often what they see is a rapid descent during a growth spurt into a very big curve. Well, if you can fix the nutrition issue and this can help stabilise the curve at “small” then this is a huge result.

Erin lists down what the research says are the usual culprits: For some people it’s low iron, other’s selenium, zinc… I read that list and I thought “hang on a mo – that’s all the stuff you get in liver”

So to short-cut it and to also get the other things that you are missing – that you are not testing for… eat organic liver once a week.

This is a nice little liver recipe: https://youtu.be/6TA49P2upt4. Some people soak the liver in milk for a few mins beforehand to take the edge off the sharp taste. Liver is, despite being super rich in nutrients – usually being at the top of most lists of “Foods with the highest level of XYZ in“, where XYZ is pretty much any nutrient you can think of – also a very inexpensive meat. There are plenty of ideas on Youtube to cook liver, here’s another one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vR94BRSHhPM . Liver is so rich in nutrients that it is not a good idea to eat every day – once a week is the traditional wisdom.

Another food that is packed with similar nutrients is black pudding. Again there are plenty of Youtube examples of how to cook it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pM4YR0BpkbU, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPTfPX7iEDY

Another food that is also very rich in nutrients is tinned salmon – why “tinned” ? Well as it’s been in the tin for a while, the mineral rich bones have softened enough to eat, so you get lots of well balanced bone minerals in an easy to absorb form.

Bone Broths: Since the dawn of time, all over the world, villages had a big pot in the middle of the village where root vegetables and meat from hunting would be chucked in and cooked for hours continually and be topped up with more water and food as and when it arrived. The villages would eat from it when they were hungry. Such long cooked meat and bones extracted lots of the deep nutrients – so not a bad idea to add bone broth cooking to your diet. Again Youtube has lots of ideas on this.

Bad foods: Sugar is a bit of an anti-nutrient – it drains your body of the nutrients it does have. If you are going to eat sugar – and kids are going to eat sugar – then use something like dark muscovado sugar as it has lots of minerals in it. The other aspect of sugar, apart from the type, is quantity. Coke and other such drinks used to be sold, and drunk, in small bottles, they are now sold and consumed in huge multi-litre multipacks… all things in moderation has always been a sensible approach.

Replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners does not help much: https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(22)00919-9

Other Bad foods: If polyunsaturated vegetable oils are going to do this to obesity & diabetes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCyxBCTERXg  and heart attacks & cancer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2UnOryQiIY , then it’s something to move away from.

What if you are a vegetarian ? Animal food is nutrient rich (organic Free range) and those nutrients are easy to absorb. Plants are a lot less dense and the nutrients in them are a lot more difficult to extract, so I’d recommend that you reconsider.

Caveman diet? Well you don’t need to go back that far. Look at the level of obesity in say the 1950’s or 60’s compared to what we have now. Back then, people used lard & beef dripping to fry eggs and bread in for breakfast – with black pudding and sausages on a Sunday morning. They ate full fat cheese sandwiches for lunch and ate liver, steak & kidney pie for dinner, juicy steaks with potato chips fried in beef fat – so you only needed to eat a moderate amount to be satiated – i.e. “I’ve eaten enough and will stop eating now” – which for some modern people is an unknown feeling – they know “feeling full” – when the stomach is over loaded, but not satiated. When they drank Coke, they drank one small bottle now and then as a treat, not gallons of it at each meal and with endless snacks in between.

Food Quality: If you get an organic egg from a shop like Wholefoods or a good farmers market, you have to give it a fair old whack to break it – they are so rich in minerals. If you get a battery farmed egg, if the shell is not already cracked, the slightest tap breaks it. So whatever the food, the quality – the nutrient value – of it can vary a lot, something to bear in mind.

Supplements:

Creatine looks like it could be very useful, this is what it does for nerve damage repair and back pain:

“Our comparative analysis results suggest a possible positive effect of creatine supplement on peripheral nerve regeneration as statistical analysis revealed significant differences between group 2 and group 3. Though our finding does not represent a miracle of regenerative support, beneficial usage of creatine is documented in the present study.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27858383/

So it may also be very good at repairing ligaments, tendons fascia… just a teaspoon a day in water of a good quality one i.e. : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kinetica-100-Creatine-Servings-500g/dp/B0892PB4RD  but lots of health foods stores have them

Olive oil: Using Olive oil (get the proper stuff) in your diet is often quite good for knee and hip pain “like oiling the tin man” is the phrase often used – I don’t hear this mentioned so much with back pain but it it’s good for the knees then worth a try.

Cod liver oil – mix with freshly squeezed orange juice to mask the taste and emulsify the oil or even better, Halibut liver oil – which you can only get in capsules – are again famous “oil the tin man” supplements. The problem with Cod Liver oil nowadays is it is no longer just Cod Liver oil. They’ve added loads of kak to it.

NAC – I’ve heard too many “I swear by this” stories for pain, and lots of other issues for it to not have some credence

Turmeric is another one that my patients have told me that have rally helped them over the years before they have come to GoodBack to get fixed once and for all

Exercise:

The first rule of exercise usually is “do it”. It does not matter too much what you do as long as you do something. Doing a sport or exercise that you enjoy: dancing, football, badminton, wall climbing… means that, as you enjoy it, you’ll be more likely to continue to do it, if it’s a chore, you’ll stop. So find something that you enjoy doing and is convenient to do… and do it in moderation. Moderate exercise is ridiculously good for all sorts of physical and mental health aspects.

What I want to look at here quickly is my latest thinking on exercise for Scoliosis: Professor Stuart McGill (him of the The Back Mechanic fame) points out that when training for sports, it’s good to train the arms, shoulders, legs & hips for movement and to train the spine to resist  that movement – to stay still – while the arms, shoulders, legs & hips do their thing. I agree.

One of the major things in scoliosis is “the rotation”. Actually, when you watch a Scoliosis operation, you can see that they do not remove “the curve” at all, what they do is remove the rotation and the curve disappears as a result: You can see here in this scoliosis operation (not for the squeamish): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvyLQYuave4

What exercises can help the ASMI Scoliosis Treatment ? When a scoliosis patient has the ASMI treatment, from session to session the improvement is something like: two steps forward, one step backwards. By “help” I mean improve this so that it is two steps forward, half a step backwards. The other thing I mean by “help” is to reduce the chances of a collapse in the curve, either bit by bit over the years from teenage-hood till old age – or the rapid collapse you see sometimes with the very elderly or with teenagers during a growth spurt.

Cable machines – found in most gyms nowadays (not the rowing machine !) can be very useful for rotation resistance exercises: You do this sort of thing using one arm then the next: there are lots of variations. A google search for “cable machine rotation exercises” and a chat to a personal trainer in your local gym should give you lots of ideas. A personal trainer can be a very good idea to use at the start with cable machines as they can do lots of “Ah no you are twisting your spine at that point ” sort of  feedback. An exercise routine called “Functional Patterns” – that uses lots of cable work as well as kettle bells and the like – is getting some good results with Scoliosis. Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) are also getting good results with their approach:

So hopefully the above musings on nutrition and exercise will be useful for scoliosis. If not, the nutrition will be useful for all sorts of other health issues obesity, diabetes… and the exercise thinking is not that quite brutal 8 hour a day scoliosis exercise thing that takes over your life – it’s light, you do it a few minutes per day throughout the day and you can do it using a line on a carpet – you don’t actually have to be above ground – although it is useful to do that as well – as it seems to stimulate some sort of primordial “don’t fall” reflex engagement with your nervous system and your rotational muscles & ligaments better than just walking a line on the carpet.

Most articles on Scoliosis & Exercise talk about The Schroth method, Physiotherapeutic scoliosis-specific exercises (PSSE) and the like. These approaches tend to be very intense – requiring many hours each day. When the Schroth method was invented by a scoliosis patient back in the 1920’s – Katharina Schroth – a lot of scoliosis was caused by the muscle weakness brought on by polio that was rampant back then. Muscle weakness from polio responds very well to physiotherapy and the results were very impressive. I’m not seeing anywhere near the same level of improvement from such approaches in modern times as muscle weakness is no longer the main driver of the scoliosis we see now.

Maybe “Scoliosis Exercise” of any type is not needed much at all with the AMSI treatment: The human body is like an “anti-machine”. In normal machines – like a lever, a crow bar or a pulley – a heavy weight is lifted a short distance by a lighter weight moving a longer distance. The human body does the opposite: If you pick up a light weight, say 1Kg, with your arm outstretched this is like having that 1Kg weight on the long end of a crow bar – what’s at the other end – the spine often. The force the spine has to deal with can be 40/50 times the 1 Kg weight, this might be easier to see with the arm: https://youtu.be/wjB0l33W100  A 10Kg weight multiplied by 50 gives you 500KG – that’s half a tonne ! – But don’t worry too much your body is designed to take it – and to react to it and strengthen so it is better able to take it in the future. So when you have the ASMI treatment and you have a small change in the angle of the vertebrae, the rotation of the vertebrae, then over the next couple of weeks – if you do some exercise – hence the “do it” I first mentioned – then the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the back will have huge half a tone weights to deal with at slightly new and more even and aligned angles and those ligaments, tendons, and muscles will react to these new requirements and will adapt and strengthen where they need strengthening and weaken where they are no longer over worked. Misshapen vertebrae will also change – but over a longer time period.

So with the ASMI treatment you straighten the spine… and then muscles strengthen – the opposite of the Schroth approach. The idea behind Schroth & co is the other way round: they see the weak muscles and work them with lots of exercise to strengthen them to see if that can straighten the spine. Maybe Schroth & co are out of date now Polio has gone, but maybe they might be a bit useful working with the ASMI treatment. So far I have not found a Schroth therapist to work with to see if this is the case… but my initial feeling is the other methods I mentioned may be more effective.

Also maybe diet is not a factor in scoliosis: If you have scoliosis you may not be digesting and absorbing nutrients properly as your digestive system is controlled a lot from your sympathetic nervous system, the hardware for which – the sympathetic ganglion that lie just in front of the spine – may not be working properly https://goodback.co.uk/2019/01/29/your-bad-back-and-your-other-problems/ – this may explain all… or some… of the research “Association” between “scoliosis and low nutrients”. But even if that is the case, these things can be circular, so eating a nutrient rich diet is no bad idea to help compensate for your restricted ability to absorb nutrients from average food.

What if the scoliosis patient is a child who is too young for the ASMI treatment ? The other top therapy for scoliosis is the original – and best – fascia massage called Rolfing – Structural Integration – this can be used for children. Bowen therapy has mixed results – it works for some, not others. Craniosacral therapy (CST) can do wonders especially if the baby had a difficult birth.