Table of Contents
Are you living with mild scoliosis and looking for ways to lead a healthy and active lifestyle without exacerbating the condition?
One effective solution is to incorporate strength based training into your exercise program.
Physical activity is hugely beneficial for most people, regular workouts can make activities of daily living easier whilst improving cardiovascular health.
For scoliosis sufferers, it’s important to focus on specific types of exercises as a form of scoliosis treatment.
Strength training is a form of exercise, usually associated with lifting weights or using an individual’s bodyweight, allowing you to become stronger and build muscles.
The muscular system and skeletal system work together to help the body move. The muscles of the body also help to support and stabilise the bones, this includes the spine.
When exercises are performed with proper technique, building muscle, and increasing strength to the lower and upper back and the abdominal muscles can help to reduce scoliosis pain.
But, what are the best exercises to help ease scoliosis symptoms?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at scoliosis and how strength training can help with mild cases.
We’ll also consider some of the best scoliosis exercises that activate each muscle group which can be incorporated into your exercise routine.
Before committing to any new form of exercise, it’s important to seek professional medical advice, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.
What Is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a medical condition that causes rotation of the spinal vertebrae, resulting in the spine taking on a curved appearance when viewed from behind.
Typically, a person’s spine appears straight however, if someone suffers from scoliosis, there will be a lateral curvature of the spine.
This means that instead of the spine appearing straight, it takes on an abnormal side to side curve.
The most common form of scoliosis is that of idiopathic scoliosis and usually affects children.
For infants, many cases resolve as the child gets older.
However, in adolescents, cases of scoliosis can often be progressive, meaning it can worsen with age, even affecting some of the body’s vital organ such as the heart and lungs.
Another common form of this condition is degenerative scoliosis and will usually arise later in life.
This is caused by asymmetric disc degeneration which is natural wear and tear of the spinal discs and happens over time.
It tends to impact the lumbar spine (lower spine) and affects around 40% of the population and is most common amongst the elderly.
Whilst some experience no symptoms following on from a diagnosis, others may suffer from poor posture, lower back pain and sciatica.
The degree of spinal curvature varies by individual, and scoliosis will be diagnosed if this curve exceeds 20 degrees in a person over the age of 10 years old.
In adults, where the spine is fully developed, research has shown that scoliosis will unlikely progress if the curvature is below that of 30 degrees.
Conversely, if the curved spine exceeds 50 degrees, then worsening of the condition is much more likely.
Advantages of Strength Training For Scoliosis
If scoliosis is left untreated it may result in several unwanted side effects.
These include herniated discs, sciatica, and spinal instability.
Whilst some recommendations for more moderate cases include wearing a brace (only suitable for children who are still growing), the symptoms arising from mild cases in adults can be reduced with strength based exercises.
Below are some of the other benefits that can be had when performing strength-based exercises:
You may suffer from mild pain and discomfort such as lower back ache, especially if you spend much of your day sitting.
By increasing muscle mass to the body, specifically the core and back muscles, can help better support the spine. This in turns, leads to an improved posture helping to alleviate pain to the lower back muscles.
By improving your mobility and flexibility, you’ll find performing daily activities easier and you’ll notice a decrease in common bodily aches and pains.
What’s more, better mobility equates to improved blood circulation and less risk of injury.
Improves the Spinal Curvature
The weaker muscle on the convex side of your spine (the outer side) helps to keep your back erect. Strength training on these muscles may help improve your spine’s curvature.
So, working out with weights regularly might help to delay the progression of scoliosis.
Increases Core Stability and Endurance
Strengthening your core muscles supports the trunk and has numerous advantages including reducing pain, helping with stability and improved breathing patterns.
An affective strength training plan will also improve your endurance, helping to improve the health of your lungs, heart, and circulatory system.
5 Tips Before You Start An Exercise Programme
Consult Your Doctor
If you have been diagnosed with minor scoliosis and want to begin strength training, you should first consult with your doctor as they have a better understanding of your overall health.
They can recommend the best course of action whether that’s strength exercises or a physical therapy program such as the Schroth method.
Work With A Professional
Find a trainer or physical therapist who is well-versed in scoliosis and physiotherapy.
As stated above, they may suggest Schroth exercises which are specifically designed at targeting scoliosis curve and differ depending on the severity of the condition.
If you suffer from scoliosis, the way you start an exercise regimen will be slightly to that from other people.
Patients with scoliosis often have weak or unbalanced muscles because of their spinal condition, but with regular strength workouts you can address symptoms and make improvements.
Avoid Certain Activities
Avoid activities that rely too heavily on spinal contortion.
Physical activities such as ballet and gymnastics may place stress on the spinal cord, increasing the chance of damage. Swimming, walking, cycling, and yoga are all good for your health and are much easier on your back.
Rest Between Sets And Between Workouts
Recovery is crucial even for those who do not have scoliosis.
First, taking days off between workouts gives your muscles and joints a chance to recover from the stress of strength training.
Strength Training Exercises For Scoliosis
When new to strength exercise, it can be advisable to start with bodyweight exercises to get used to working with proper form and good range of motion.
Bodyweight exercises are also simple to adapt to your fitness level. To stabilize your spine and increase core strength, take deep breaths and use your engage your core muscles with each movement.
The below suggested exercises are not for correcting the curvature of a scoliotic spine but rather for strengthening muscles that help support the spine.
- The plank is a simple bodyweight exercise that helps to improve core strength.
- Lie face down on an exercise mat and rest on your forearms and toes only.
- Keeping your spine in a neutral position, engage the core muscles to provide stability.
- Keep your pelvis straight and hold this position for as long as possible.
The Side Plank
The side plank is a variation on the regular plank exercise and is good for targeting the external obliques which run down the sides.
- Lie on a mat and roll onto one side.
- Ensure your shoulders are aligned, one should directly be above the other.
- Rest on the forearm closest to the mat and keep your body in a straight position.
- Maintain this position for as long as possible before switching sides.
If this movement feels quite challenging, then bend at the knees and position your feet behind you which would pressure on the back.
The Glute Bridge
As its name implies, the glute bridge is an exercise that works the glutes.
However, it’s a great exercise for activating the core stabiliser muscles and when performed regularly will help with better posture and to help reduce any scoliosis symptoms.
- Lie down on your back, ideally on an exercise mat.
- Bend at the knees and keep your feet flat on the ground.
- Press your lower back into the mat to engage the core muscles.
- Place your arms down by your sides, palms facing either up or down.
- Raise your glutes off the ground until your body is in a straight line. Don’t go beyond this as you’ll over arch your back.
- Squeeze the glutes and core and hold at the top for a couple of seconds.
- Drop back down and ensure your lower back briefly touches the ground before pushing back up.
- Repeat 10 to 12 repetitions of 3 sets.
Another floor based exercise, this will help to work the lumbar spine which is the lower part of the spinal cord.
- Lie down on an exercise back and position yourself on your back.
- Keep your arms down by your sides and slowly raise up your knees until your lower legs are parallel to the floor.
- Holding this position, slowly rotate the legs from side to side.
- If you’re able, you can drop your knees down until they touch the mat.
- Make sure to perform the exercise slowly and with control.
- Repeat for 10 repetitions.
Thoracic Side Bends
This exercise is performed whilst standing and will work more of the thoracic spine, which is the top of the spine.
Use resistance bands or weight to make this exercise more challenging
- Begin by standing upright with a stance just wider than shoulder width.
- Keep your arms down by your sides, resting your palms on your thighs.
- Slowly tilt the head and upper body down one side, allowing your palm to slide down your thigh.
- You should feel a good stretch down the side.
- Return back to the standing position and drop down the other side.
- Repeat for 10 repetitions and make sure to perform the exercise slowly.
Can You Build Muscle With Scoliosis?
Patients with scoliosis can increase muscle mass despite their condition. Strength based training is recommended to strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, making them more stable and less prone to injury.
How Can I Fix Scoliosis Naturally?
Chiropractic treatments, yoga, Pilates, and physiotherapy are all options for helping with minor scoliosis.
A physical therapist may also employ Katharina Schroth’s, Schroth technique to assist. These include doing a series of specialist exercises to make the spine more flexible and slow the curve’s progress.
However, for people with more severe cases, surgical bracing may be required. Adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis have a spine that is still flexible and easy to alter whilst growing.
In the most severe of cases, spinal surgery such as spinal fusion may be the only solution. This would be determined by a medical professional.
Can Athletes Have Scoliosis?
Yes, some athletes and sports professional have been diagnosed with scoliosis. Usain Bolt is a world-famous athlete who lives and trains with scoliosis.
It is possible to live with mild scoliosis and perform activities that anyone else can perform
Scoliosis can present some challenges regarding strength training. But, working out regularly has many benefits, such as relieving pain, building muscle, helping with stability, and improving your posture.
Remember to seek advice from a health professional before starting any strength training program, as the severity of your scoliosis may impact their recommendations.
They can advise you on which exercises are best for your specific condition and help you stay safe while exercising.
Also, keep in mind that everyone’s experience with scoliosis is different, so it may take some experimentation to find the best workout routine for you.
It’s also helpful to have a personal trainer who understand scoliosis but still help you to attain your fitness goals.
Your health is a priority, so ease into strength training if you’re new to it. But with consistency and dedication, you can use strength training to improve your quality of life and manage scoliosis.