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July 9, 2018
I’ve had a lot of students ask me over the years whether playing the violin or viola can cause scoliosis.

Since you might be curious, too, I thought I’d share a few thoughts I’ve been having recently on the topic.

First of all, scoliosis is simply defined as an abnormal lateral (side-to-side) curvature of the spine. Doctors aren’t in agreement about whether the muscles and soft tissue cause the curvature by pulling the spine out of alignment, or whether it’s the spine itself that initiates the problem.

(Of course, unlike Alexander Technique specialists, medical practitioners don’t usually consider the possibility that the real source of the problem may go deeper than the physical musculoskeletal system.)

Actually, scoliosis is more common than most people think, and it often doesn’t cause any problems at all. In fact, lots of people have a mild scoliosis and never even find out because they don’t have any pain.

Unfortunately, a lot of violinists and violists DO have pain related to some degree of scoliosis of the spine. Problems can show up as back, neck, shoulder, or other pain.

Does violin/viola playing actually CAUSE scoliosis?

Find out more here >> LINK

Well, I’m not a medical specialist, but it’s certainly a fact that the way we use our bodies actually causes our muscles and bones to grow into certain shapes. “Form follows function.”

So, when there is a repetitive asymmetrical movement that pulls us off balance, especially when we’re young and bones are still growing, the shape of the spine and surrounding musculature can certainly be influenced and trained into a more pronounced curvature than normal, and that can contribute to discomfort.

This is why it’s CRITICAL to learn how to place, hold, and play your instrument with as little interference with our natural shape and movement as possible.

And it doesn’t matter WHAT age you are or how long you’ve been playing your instrument – it’s always possible to undo tension habits and prevent unnecessary stress on your system.

It just takes a little bit of knowledge and skill!

I’ll be sharing exactly what you need to know to help yourself prevent, manage, and ease abnormal curvature in your spine** related to playing your instrument in my upcoming masterclass:

The Centered Violinist®: 

Natural Posture and Setup Clinic for Violinists/Violists

~ For professionals AND beginners ~


Replay recording WILL be available
for those who cannot attend live

Hurry – registration closes Friday!

I know you’ll get so much out of this introduction to the Alexander Technique for violinists/violists, focusing on a very unique, holistic view of posture and setup. I hope you can make it!

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns – I’m here to help.

With Love,
p.s. Registration closes this Friday at midnight, so sign up now! >> LINK

**Disclaimer: Please note that Alexander Technique teachers are NOT trained to offer medical diagnoses or treatment plans. The information in this masterclass is offered as a practical, holistic, informational viewpoint only. It is NOT intended to replace any information or treatment offered by a medical professional. Please make sure to consult a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment of scoliosis. 


Pain, scoliosis, suffering, violin, wellness

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  1. There is absolutely no evidence that any activity, performed asymmetrically or not, can cause scoliosis! There is in fact a very strong genetic component to scoliosis that does not have anything to do with playing the violin. Suggesting that one has in some way caused their own scoliosis is a type of nocebo which can cause negative effects simply by believing it to be true. If you already have scoliosis you can benefit from learning how to stop habits that exaggerate your curves, but you cannot cure scoliosis with anything short of spinal reconstructive surgery, which is reserved for only the most extreme cases. Also please note that scoliosis is not defined as “abnormal lateral (side-to-side) curvature of the spine.” It is rather a structural curvature of the spine with lateral and rotatory components, hence twisted and not merely bent. This 2009 paper has much more detail, although it is slightly out of date in that the genes responsible have now been determined. https://www.spinemd.com/assets/uploads/files/The_Genetic_Basis.pdf

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Tom. I appreciate your clarification on the nature of scoliosis. I’m glad you agree that we can benefit from learning how to stop habits that exaggerate spinal curvature.
      Please note that I did NOT assert that playing the violin can cause scoliosis.
      However, I don’t think it’s impossible that we can cause a genetic predisposition to manifest by how we use ourselves.
      Introducing the suggestion that repeated asymmetrical actions could possibly contribute to scoliosis doesn’t have to have a negative effect. In fact, it can have the positive effect of motivating a person to look more deeply into how their thoughts and movements can affect the body, and spur them on to take more responsibility and consequent actions for self-care.
      If anything on this page is a “nocebo”, I think it’s the assertion that “you cannot cure scoliosis with anything short of spinal reconstructive surgery”.
      I think it’s important to always leave the door open to possibility, which allows us to use the power of belief to positive effect.
      Thanks again for your interest.
      All best wishes!

  2. I find that a most excellent rebuttal. Well done Jennifer. Thought provoking in both directions nevertheless. I may badger my MD to quit smoking now so as to open the possibility of reversing the genetic change that science suggests he may have accomplished thus far. In fact there is only one problem I see in the piece and that is the deference to the MD. The MD is probably asleep and has been like that maybe since qualification. You will of course agree this is a distinct possibility; mine hasn’t found the right combinations of pills for me yet and still smokes Woodbine Sobrane and Players Navy Cut while quaffing a ‘good’ malt whisky. Bloody chancer.

    1. Yes – even the MDs are human! 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Jim, and my apologies for the VERY LONG DELAY!!! All best wishes!

  3. I would have thought that any muscle in tension can pull a bone one way or another and if one side is strong and the other weak, it will pull it accordingly. In fact, there is a great deal of authoritative evidence for that. I would never touch surgery for this. What interests me just now is whether those violinists and viola players who have scoliosis always have it, like me, on the bowing arm side!?

    1. That’s a great question about scoliosis in violinists. Honestly, I have no idea if the twist tends to be in the same direction in violinists in general. That would be an interesting research study!
      How do you experience your scoliosis? Do you find that it interferes with your playing in any way? I’d be curious to hear about how it manifests for you, and if you’ve tried to do anything about it before.
      Thanks for commenting, and I look forward to hearing from you!
      p.s. I sent you an email, as well, and sorry for my delayed response!

    2. I started playing violin when I was in 3rd grade. I stopped playing consistently in 12th grade because of back pain after hours of playing. I learned at age 18 that my left shoulder was higher than my right, or bowing arm shoulder. My right hip rotates back and my left leg presents shorter and I have scoliosis that seems to be causing numb toes and pain in right hip and leg. It makes sense that years of using my left shoulder to keep violin in position
      would cause structural change in my growing body. Balance is tricky business.
      I would gladly participate in the study regarding scoliosis and bowed instrument playing.

      1. Dear Sarah,
        Thank you for your comment, and what you discovered about yourself is not unusual. I’m not involved in a study on this topic right now, but I would love to help you release and undo the tension and imbalances you’re experiencing, if you’re interested in learning more. Would you like a complimentary consultation?

  4. from my 50 years of playing, i have observed that violin playing makes bad posture worse and rewards good posture. Your vertebrae dont care how you define scoliosis.

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