If you ask the average person about scoliosis exercises, they might respond with a confused look. To most people, scoliosis is seen as a limiting condition that prevents patients from participating in physical activities. They may see scoliosis patients as fragile individuals who must be kept away from activities like exercise or sports.
For those who live with scoliosis, however, exercise is a crucial component of treating the condition.
Participating in sports and other forms of exercise helps patients — especially adolescents — develop well being in a variety of aspects of life. It helps them realize that life does not have to be limited by their diagnosis. All you have to do is take a look at the accomplishments of Usain Bolt to realize that physical activity can have a remarkably positive impact.
Furthermore, exercise and participation in sports aids in treatment by increasing strength, flexibility and overall health. Many parents come to me assuming that I will recommend for their child to stop playing sports and are surprised when I encourage them to continue their participation. Staying active and engaging in exercise makes the whole body healthier, which in turn leads to more positive outcomes for scoliosis treatment.
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I want to get into some specific scoliosis exercises that can benefit patients, but first I’d like to address participation in sports, especially for adolescents with scoliosis.
Personally, participation in sports has been one of the most gratifying aspects of my life. When I was younger, sports taught me a lot about my own body, and they helped guide me down the path that led me to where I am today. Sports provide a great way for adolescents to express themselves, build relationships, achieve goals and learn the value of a commitment to fitness.
But not all sports are appropriate for those with scoliosis.
Swimming is often recommended as the best sport to participate in for those with scoliosis. The water simulates a weightless environment, which places less impact on the spine and can improve the health of the spinal discs. It also utilizes a wide range of the body’s muscles, providing a highly balanced form of activity.
Running and walking are also great for scoliosis patients, as is hiking. Sprinting (Usain Bolt’s specialty) is probably better for the spine than long-distance running. Cross-country skiing is also a wonderful physical activity for adolescents with scoliosis.
Collision sports do not need to be prohibited entirely, but they should be approached with caution. Football, hockey, soccer, gymnastics and other similar sports are more likely to cause injury to the spine or possibly reduce the effectiveness of a treatment plan. Adolescents with scoliosis should probably avoid these types of sports if they want the best-possible outcomes from treatment. They should also steer clear of sports that involve the use of one side of the body more than the other (such as golf, bowling or tennis).
Repetitive shocks are characteristic of some sports like weight lifting, long-distance running, the long jump or horseback riding. Therefore, they may increase compressive forces applied to the spine, and should be approached with caution.
Patients who come here to the Scoliosis Reduction Center receive treatment in a few key categories, one of which is Scoliosis Specific Exercise. Scoliosis Specific Exercises — SSEs — are customized for each patient based on the individual’s ability and curve type. They involve reflexive exercises, movement-based exercise and isometric exercises.
Each patient is evaluated and given a set of exercises designed specifically for them. Additionally, they are given a specific program involving therapy, chiropractic care and bracing. When all aspects are combined, it creates a powerful approach to treatment that delivers real, measurable improvements.
Now I want to tell you about a few scoliosis exercises that can be performed by most patients to good effect.
First, it is important to know that you should not begin any sort of exercise or physical fitness program without consulting your doctor or trusted medical professional. Because every patient is different, it is critical that each individual approaches exercise in a manner consistent with their unique abilities and spinal curvature.
That being said, here are some of the best exercises for those with scoliosis.
#1 — Stretching
Stretches that can be done in a symmetrical manner can relieve tension and tightness in the muscles. Some examples include the “child’s pose,” chest and shoulders stretches, and hip flexion stretches.
If you are curious about yoga and scoliosis, I covered it in a separate article, which you can read here.
#2 — Rowing
Rowing works and strengthens the latissimus dorsi back muscles, and there are many ways to do it. You can sit on a stability ball while facing a pulley machine, or use rowing-specific equipment.
#3 — The Plank
Planking is a deceptively simple way to strengthen the body’s core and improve strength. You can begin by placing your forearms and knees on the ground, with your elbows beneath your shoulders. Hold the position for as long as you feel comfortable. If you feel ready for a bigger challenge, lift your knees off the floor and stabilize yourself with your toes. When you plank properly, you will feel it in your lower abdominal muscles and your lower back. If you feel any pinching or pain, adjust your body or stop performing the exercise until you can receive the proper guidance.
#4 — CLEAR Institute Back Exercises
As a CLEAR (Chiropractic, Leadership, Educational, Advancement and Research) certified doctor, I stand behind the recommendations of the organization and would like to point you to its comprehensive list of back exercises. These exercises can be performed in almost any setting, and they can provide increased strength and relief when done properly.
Exercise can provide serious, highly impactful benefits for those with scoliosis, but patients and parents need to approach exercise thoughtfully. No exercise program should be approached without first consulting a doctor, and any exercise that causes pain or discomfort should be ceased and re evaluated before continuing.
If you are interested in learning more about how exercise can help scoliosis patients as part of a comprehensive treatment program, or if you’d like to learn more about the types of exercises that are appropriate for scoliosis, I’d love to hear from you! Contact us here at Scoliosis Reduction Center.