Contortionists dont have side effects except for the occasional soreness. doesn't hurt and there are no negative permanent side effects. It is uncomfortable in the beginning, but you feel the discomfort lesser for each time you do the exercises.Rather it has many benefits like-
• you probably will be one of those that won't suffer of osteoarthritis when you get old. Amongst people who are not practicing activities like yoga or contortion, only one in fifty will escape some form of rheumatic or arthritic complaint in their lifetime.
• that when you get old you'll most likely look much younger than most people in your age.
• that medical surveys show that contortionists and yogis not only has a great resistance to every day complaints, pain and disease, but their general health is excellent and they live considerably longer than folks in any other professions.
• that if you suffer from hyper mobility or other health issues like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is a disorder of the connective tissue, you will most likely get results much quicker than a healthy person, but at the same time feel less of the symptoms. If you or other members of your family have suffered from one or many dislocations you’re most likely having similar health issues and should learn to do controlled dislocations and fully master the exercise schedule. How people are built also decides how far it's possible to go or how much, but most can do all of the exercises. Many times it only means that it will take longer to learn to do some things while others come easily. Most important is to practice daily. For me practicing yoga and contortion sport has meant stopping the progress of EDS completely with all of it's symptoms.
• that your strenght will improve
• that your endurance will improve
• that your pain treshold will improve remarcably
• that your range of movement will improve dramatically
• that your memory and concentration will improve
• that this is the most natural and inexpensive way of exercising that exists
Thank you Dr. Simran for you info. Wow! There's hope!
Hi Dr. Simran,
I have EDS and was told by my specialist at Hopkins not to stretch. He said I'm already hypermobile and to become even more hypermobile will cause my symptoms to increase (POTS, fatigue, orthostatic intolerance, joint pain, painful trigger points, tendon tears, etc.). It's interesting to read what you wrote. Can you explain further?
My daughter is twelve years old and she is extremely flexible. She wants to go into contortionist training, so I called one school in Newton, Massachusetts. I was told my daughter had to be thirteen, because extreme back bending would damage her back little by little. I told her that she already was doing a chest stand and they told me that she shouldn't be doing any bending forward or backward until her spine is fully developed at the age of thirteen. I would like to know if this is true ? She has been doing splits and exercises since she was about the age of three. She also holds her hands together and pulls them over her head over her shoulders to her back.
I have to disagree with Dr Simran - based not only on personal experience but MRI evidence of the Cortionist's spine.
Firstly, those who have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome & Hypermobility Joint Syndrome are NOT suitable candidates for Contortionism. Their connective tissue deficits and ligamentous laxity means their joints are way too unstable to safely get into and out of contortion positions - especially back bending... and to develop the prime mover musculature with appropriate resistance training as well as the agonist muscle groups to be strong enough is near improbable. I've never seen a well-muscled person with EDS.
Radiological evidence in the following two (2) Scientific Papers, clearly indicates the permanent & irreversible damage that Contortion - especially if commenced at an early age.
Peoples et al. Whole-spine dynamic magnetic resonance study of contortionists: anatomy & physiology. 2008;8(6):501-509
Orrison & Perkins. Dynamic whole-spine MRI of contortionists. 2009;53(2):493-506
Spinal damage includes:
• Scoliosis to the Thoracic spine - usually of a dextro-concave nature
• Straightening of normal Lordosis - that is loss of the natural curve in BOTH the Cervical & Lumbar spine
• Whole spine Degenerative Intervertebral Disc Disease - leading to Spondylosis, and all types of Listhesis
• Annular tears & Bulges of the Discs - especially in the Cervical & Lumbar spine
• Facet joint arthropathy with foraminal stenosis - Nerve Root Compression
• Damage to the Vertebral Body End Plates with development of Osteophytes (Bone Spurs - Osteoarthritis) that grow into the Spinal Canal (Cervical) or Central Canal (Lumbar), as well as intractable pain from Sinuvertebral Nerve damage - that causes Neuroinflammation and triggers release of inflammatory chemicals resulting in intractable pain.
• Nerve Root Impingement (Radiculitis), Nerve Root damage (Radiculopathy), and progression to Spinal Cord damage (Myelopathy)
• Once damage such as this is advanced (which will develop only after a few years of intense Back-bending training of Contortion in the early years), then the Autonomic Nervous System is affected due to the damage and resultant Neuroinflammation that occurs, as well as the excruciating Pain and Debilitating Disablement that will ensue.
Think twice about participating in Contortion - especially at a young age, and pushing the boundaries of natural flexibility, in particular back bending, and hyper-extension of the neck.
I practised Contortion - due to natural flexibility and strong musculature from the age of 8-11, taught by an ex-Moscow Olympian, doing full Dance & Acrobats with the possibly for Circus performance back in the 70s. I then went on to do Gymnastics until the age of 14, but also did Physical Culture dance from Age 4 -17 (deportment style physical performance with little back bending). I am now in my mid-40s and have long been suffering from ALL the symptoms indicated above, have already had C-spine Decompressive surgery, and am now awaiting the same for my L-spine. I'm medicated to the back-teeth due to Nerve Damage, Osteoarthritis
Hope this helps.
That is in fact, not true. I am 10 years old and have been doing contortion for quite a while. My back has not been destroyed little by little, in fact, my back has felt better, little by little.
Contortion is actually a very safe sport. No long term damage is done to contortionists who practice and learn safely. Most normal healthy people can learn contortion safely, except a few people. Some people have conditions such as spinal deformities or EDS that can prevent them from doing contortion safely, and before attempting must get a VERY carefully decided okay from a doctor. If you stretch dangerously or to a extent far past then what you are capable of you will get hurt, as well as if you attempt poses that you are not capable of. But if you know what you are doing, take safety precautions, and use common sense, you should never get anything more than a mild injury. It is very hard for a healthy person with common sense to get hurt doing contortion. Contortion is a very safe, healthful, and enjoyable sport, but if done unsafely can have severe consequences.