Scoliosis may worsen with age in some patients. The curve may increase with or without increasing the pain. Many patients fear that the only treatment for getting relief from the pain will be a spine surgery. However, many patients do not need surgery. With the right workout or exercise regime, you can maintain the curve, help relieve the pain, and halt the progression of your scoliosis.
One common myth regarding scoliosis is that you need to avoid any kind of physical activity. On the contrary, the more physically active you are, the less likely is for you to experience the pain.
Scoliosis cannot be corrected permanently without surgery. However, exercise can help prevent its worsening.
What is the best exercise for scoliosis?
The type of exercise depends on your age, the location of the curves, and the cause of scoliosis. Hence, only a physical therapist may be able to suggest the best exercise for your scoliosis. Generally, the exercises that stretch the muscles around your spine and strengthen your core are recommended.
Here are a few examples of good stretches:
- You can try hanging from a bar as long as you can bear. Release and repeat.
- Chest stretch: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms bent in front of your chest. Stretch your chest by pulling your arms backward and pressing your shoulder blades together.
- Backstretch: Stand with your arms extended in front of your chest. Lace your fingers and try pushing them away from your chest. You will feel a stretch in your upper back. Hold this stretch for a few seconds and release.
Some examples of good core exercises are:
- Arm/leg raise: Lie on your stomach with your chin or forehead facing the ground and straighten your legs. Extend your arms and slowly raise one arm off the ground, hold the position for a moment, and lower it back to the ground. Repeat this for your other arm and legs.
- Superman exercise: Lie on your stomach with arms extended in palms-down position, lift both feet and arms, and lower them back to the ground.
You can repeat these exercises 5 to 15 times (reps). If you do not find any relief or find that it is worsening your spinal deformity, you should discontinue the exercises. You can consult a physical therapist who can advise you on tailor-made or specific scoliosis exercises known as SEAS exercises.
The Schroth method for scoliosis is a special rehabilitation program designed for managing moderate to severe scoliosis. It consists of tailored exercises for patients depending on their age, spine curvature, and muscle status. It works on the back muscles, the overall posture of a person, and the strength of the core muscles. Also, various breathing techniques are suggested to improve the pain. This training should only be done under expert supervision.
How should you sleep with scoliosis?
Avoid sleeping on your stomach because it is the worst sleeping position for people with scoliosis; it causes the thoracic spine to become flattened. Sleeping on your belly makes you turn your head to one side, which twists your spine. So far, resting sideways has been observed to be a good sleeping posture. You can put pillows in between your legs for comfort.
While there is no best bed for scoliosis, doctors recommend choosing a firm or medium-firm mattress over a cushiony mattress.
What exercises should be avoided with scoliosis?
In general, you should avoid certain activities and exercises, which can worsen your condition and pain. Some of these include:
- Swimming for hours
- Playing football
- Torso extensions (such as in backbends, gymnastics, high jumps, ballet, and certain yoga positions)
- Horse riding
- Playing on trampolines
- Carrying heavy objects
- Squats and lunges
- Twisting exercises
Make sure you also discuss with your doctor about which other activities you need to avoid.
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Negrini A, et al. Scoliosis-Specific exercises can reduce the progression of severe curves in adult idiopathic scoliosis: a long-term cohort study. Scoliosis. 2015;10:20.
Ko KJ, Kang SJ. Effects of 12-week core stabilization exercise on the Cobb angle and lumbar muscle strength of adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis. J Exerc Rehabil. 2017;13(2):244-249.