In my experience working with the nervous system and the body, most presentations of scoliosis aren’t congenital and irreversible (so something you are born with and can’t change) but a result of the nervous system being “stuck” on particular channel. In the case of scoliosis, what’s expressing is a neurological flight pattern where the body is trying to either exit stage left or exit stage right, depending on its dominant expression.
If we consider how the structure of the body expresses in flight, there are a standout features to take note of:
👉 Rotation of the upper body or spine, with one shoulder blade sitting closer towards the spine and one further away
👉 “Uneven” pelvis, with one foot pointing more out to the side than the other
👉 Elbows will typically face out, with the palms of the hands facing the inside of the elbows
The purpose of the brain in flight is (obviously) to flee. I have seen instances where someone who first presents with a flee pattern right will shift to a flee pattern left, depending on where their significant other was sitting in the room. You don’t have to be a mindreader to know how things are going in their relationship.
When you start to be able to read structure, you can observe when someone’s flee pattern is active as the structure of their body will reflect their desire to leave.
In someone who presents with this pattern being the “norm” that gives us information that at this particular moment in time, either their body is reflecting the truth of the situation (and they do, indeed, want to be somewhere else) or their nervous system lacks adaptability and has got “stuck” on the flee response.
In my work, I’ve seen numerous examples of people “arriving” with a flee pattern that has been with them for decades that they’ve watched slowly unravel as their nervous system became more adaptable. The body always seeks harmony- sometimes it just doesn’t have the information that it needs.
So what is the “fix”?
With the approach I work with, we understand the way that our body is positioned and our biomechanics as being ultimate informed by our autonomic nervous system, which is under our unconscious control. What this means is that we can’t “force” the body out of this place; it has to be the decision of our unconscious brain.
More sensory information is what the brain requires in order to make different decisions, structurally, emotionally and behaviourally. The movement work I teach is about activating the sensory feedback loops in the body (loops which go offline when we spend more time in our sympathetic nervous system than out of it) to give the unconscious brain more information, and to update its body maps. In this way, the brain releases its old patterns and creates new ways of functioning and movement that are more relevant to the present moment.
This conversation was motivated by a question posted on another thread of mine that talked about scoliosis and asymmetry, and so I also wanted to make the distinction between those two things. While we have talked about scoliosis being a flight pattern, asymmetry relates more to a lack of movement in both the superficial front line and deep front line fascial trains (both of which form the centreline of the body). In this case, the centreline is more fixed to one side, which again creates a lack of adaptability in movement but with a slightly different manifestation.
Riders will commonly experience this as a heavier weighting of one side of the pelvis over the other and a distinct difference in comfort and “ability to ride” depending on which direction they are going.
Scoliosis has more of a rotational component than what we might see with “straight” asymmetry.
And on that note, if your interest in position and biomechanics isn’t incorporating the nervous system, you are always going to have limited “success” in changing things up, simply because it’s the foundation that everything springs from.
It really is an inside out job.