Spine Straightening Exercises

The effects of scoliosis can be very detrimental to one’s life. While some patients suffer only minor discomfort, others suffer from chronic pain. The curve of the spine is often the cause of this discomfort, leading to problems with the neck, shoulders, hips, and the back itself.

In order to combat this pain and discomfort, our own ScolioGold treatment method includes a wide variety of spine-straightening exercises. ScolioGold therapy has repeatedly proven capable of reducing the curve in the spine – see our results here.

If you do not want to undergo surgery for whatever reason, there are many exercises we can teach you to help with the effects of scoliosis. Here are some spine-straightening exercises that you can try at home:

Standing against the wall to straighten spine

Standing against a wall

The simple exercise can actually help improve your posture and build strength! All you need is a flat wall to stand against – here’s what to do once you’ve found one:
  1. Stand with your head and shoulders pressed firmly against the wall behind you and place your feet approximately 20cm in front of you.
  2. Push your lower back towards the wall and hold this position for a few seconds.
  3. Take a few deep breaths and then breathe out as you relax. Repeat.
 

Planking exercise

Planking

Planking is a helpful spine-straightening exercise as it strengthens your core muscles whilst also targeting your lower back to help improve posture. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Lie on the floor on your front (use a mat to avoid slipping, as shown in the photo above).
  2. Hold yourself up using your forearms and toes and raise your whole body off the floor.
  3. Keeping your legs straight and your hips raised, place your shoulders directly above your elbows to create a straight line from head to toe.
  4. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax and repeat again several times.
 

Bird Dog Stretch

‘Bird dog’ stretches (leg/arm extensions)

This is another strengthening exercise. It is often performed with a gym ball (as shown in the photo above), but you can still do this exercise if you don’t have one handy.

  1. Firstly, lie face-down on the ball and gradually extend your right arm whilst using your left arm to support you (same technique without the ball).
  2. While holding this position, gradually extend your left leg up behind you as shown below.

Spine straightening exercise on gym ball

3. Hold for a couple of seconds, then alternate to the opposite limbs. Repeat this alternating movement back and forth between right and left.

Interested in completing a full treatment course at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic? To book your consultation or request more information, please contact us today.

Pilates is a system of exercises devised by a German physical trainer named Joseph Pilates. It has become incredibly popular in the Western world, with countless Pilates classes available throughout the UK. But is Pilates beneficial for scoliosis sufferers? It certainly can be – there is evidence that Pilates can help to improve balance and muscle conditioning, and some scoliosis patients also find that Pilates helps to relieve tension, improve posture and increase joint mobility. This method of exercising is usually very safe, and while it’s no substitute for an intensive ScolioGold treatment course, you may find that Pilates goes some way towards helping you cope with your spinal curvature. Today we will be looking at some helpful Pilates techniques for scoliosis sufferers and how you can perform them at home.

Pilates for Scoliosis - Seated Pelvic Tilt

Seated Pelvic Tilt on a Stability Ball

To perform this exercise:
  • Sit up straight on a stability ball with your feet flat on the floor and hold a support in front of you.
  • Slowly tuck your tailbone under, curving your pelvis beneath you. You should feel the ball roll forward slightly.
  • Release, then start again.
 

Pilates for Scoliosis - Side Bend

Side Bend

The side bend exercise focuses on the upper half of your back. Here’s how to do it:
  • Raise one hand up over your head, towards the ceiling, then bend your knees.
  • Once you’re in a bending position, take your other hand and rest it on the side of your hip.
  • Lengthen your body to one side, rest, and then bend to the other side. Repeat.
 

Pilates for Scoliosis - Neutral Pelvis

Core Activation

This exercise is very gentle and can be conducted by patients of all ages. Lie flat on your back on a soft mat to begin with, then follows these steps:
  • With your knees bent and feet flat on the floor (hip-width apart), find your ‘neutral pelvis’ as shown in the photos above. First, move your lower back as far as you can away from the mat…
  • …and then press it as far as you can towards the mat. The midpoint between these two positions is your ‘neutral pelvis’.
  • To engage your core, place your finger tips on the inside of your hip bone. Try to tighten your stomach muscles in towards the spine – your tummy should move away from your fingers.
  • Hold for six seconds, and then repeat.

Pilates for Scoliosis - Core Activation

These are just a few gentle Pilates exercises that can be completed every morning. Regularly completing this routine can help relieve tension and other symptoms of scoliosis, but if you’re looking for a more specialised exercise routine to prevent long-term progression of your condition, we can provide this here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic. Contact us today for details, or click here to learn more about our ScolioGold treatment method.

Specialised scoliosis physiotherapy

Idiopathic scoliosis (which usually arises during puberty, when the body is going through a period of rapid growth) is often treated using a rigid back brace that prevents the spinal curve from progressing as the patient grows. It’s important to note that the aim of this bracing treatment is not to correct / reverse the sideways curvature of the spine, but simply to stop it from getting worse until the body has finished growing. And while bracing can be very effective in that respect, it does very little to assist in building up the muscle strength that will be needed to ensure spinal stability once the brace comes off.

In fact, bracing tends to have a negative effect on muscle strength.

Scoliosis braces typically have to be worn for over 20 hours a day in order to achieve the best treatment outcome. During the bracing period, the muscles around the spine are likely to become inactive because the brace is doing their job (i.e. supporting the spine) for them. This often results in a weakening of the spinal muscles, which may lead to the patient becoming reliant on the support of the brace.

But physical therapy can help with this problem.

There is a lot of clinical evidence to suggest that bracing delivers better outcomes for the patient when combined with scoliosis-specific physiotherapy. A 2011 study1 found that combining these two approaches reduces the risk of future curve progression and thus the likelihood that spinal fusion surgery will eventually be required. It has also been shown2 that completing a scoliosis-specific exercise programme limits the reversal of spinal correction when bracing ends. Not only are scoliosis-specific exercises recommended in the SOSORT 2011 guidelines for people with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis who are undergoing brace treatment, but several authors who developed scoliosis braces (such as the Milwaukee, Boston, Lyon and Chêneau braces) have proposed that scoliosis-specific exercises should be used to complement brace treatment. Indeed, the newly-developed Sforzesco and Gensingen braces are specifically designed to be worn in conjunction with exercise-based therapy. In short: it’s good to receive physiotherapy for your scoliosis even if it’s also being treated with a brace. Integrating scoliosis-specific exercises with a bracing treatment helps to provide a more complete rehabilitation programme for growing patients with idiopathic scoliosis.

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Links & References

  • ScolioGold Therapy – The Scoliosis SOS Clinic’s own combination of proven exercise-based scoliosis treatment techniques
  • Contact Scoliosis SOS – Arrange an initial consultation (to be conducted at our clinic in London or via Skype / telephone)
 1. Negrini S, Aulisa AG, Aulisa L, Circo AB, de Mauroy JC, Durmala J,  Grivas TB, Knott P, Kotwicki T, Maruyama T, Minozzi S, O’Brien JP, Papadopoulos D, Rigo M, Rivard CH, Romano M, Wynne JH, Villagrasa M, Weiss HR, Zaina F: 2011 SOSORT guidelines: Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation treatment of idiopathic scoliosis during growth. Scoliosis 2012, 7:3 2. Zaina F, Negrini S, Atanasio S, Fusco C, Romano M, Negrini A: Specific exercises performed in the period of brace weaning can avoid loss of correction in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) patients: Winner of SOSORT’s 2008 Award for Best Clinical Paper. Scoliosis 2009, 4(1):8.
Exercise is important for scoliosis sufferers – in addition to being good for your overall health, the right kind of physical activity helps to strengthen the muscles that may have been weakened by the curvature of your spine. However, some exercises can have a negative, even dangerous impact on a scoliotic spine, and if you have scoliosis, it’s good to know which stretches and exercises might do you more harm than good.
 
We at Scoliosis SOS have a lot of experience when it comes to treating scoliosis and other spinal conditions, and our physiotherapists understand exactly how a curved spine can be affected by different movements and extensions. Today, we’d like to highlight some exercises that scoliosis patients are better off avoiding.

Positions and exercises to avoid if you have scoliosis 

Lumber Hyper Extension

Lumbar Hyper-Extension

It’s important to avoid any position which will exert excessive force to the lower back through extension. This will encourage compression of the lumbar spine, and is especially dangerous if you have an underlying spinal problem such as spondylolisthesis.
 
Thoracic Rotation

Uncontrolled Thoracic Rotation

You should avoid any prolonged positions where your upper trunk is rotated above your lower trunk as in the images above. This will apply inadvertent torsion and twisting forces to your spine – especially critical when looking at scoliotic rotation. 
 
Hyperflexion of the Neck

Hyperflexion of Neck

Positions such as the one shown above apply excessive strain to the small vertebrae in your neck; if you have scoliosis, this will also place increased weight and strain through the weaker parts of your spine, potentially causing your spinal curve to increase. 
 
Back Bend

Back Bends

Similar to hyperextension of the lower back (see above), this position will put undue stress and strain on your spine, and may cause your spinal curve to become even more severe.
 
If you want to learn more about which scoliosis exercises to avoid, or if you’re interested in receiving treatment here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, please do not hesitate to contact us.
When you’re concentrating on work, it can be very easy to fall into bad posture habits – especially if you spend most of the working day sitting at a desk. Sitting still for long periods of time can be quite bad for your body to begin with, but when you’re sitting in a position that is putting pressure on certain parts of your musculoskeletal system, the effect is compounded, with potentially dire results.
A desk job can be particularly hazardous to your health if you already suffer from scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine) or hyper-kyphosis (an excessive forward curve in the spine). Poor desk posture can exacerbate back pain, a common symptom of scoliosis, and may even contribute to the continued progression of one’s existing spinal curve.

Therapeutic stretches to try at work

Whether you suffer from a spinal condition or not, you can perform the following stretches while seated at your desk in order to stave off the potential health consequences of bad posture:
Thoracic Extension at Desk

Stretch #1: Thoracic Extension at a Desk

  1. Sit forwards in your seat with your knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place the palms of your hands and your mid-forearms underneath your desk, with elbows bent to 90 degrees.
  3. Apply gentle pressure in an upwards direction with your hands and mid-forearms, while simultaneously extending your upper back and allowing your pelvis to rock forwards.
  4. Ensure that your chin is tucked in as your neck elongates upwards.
  5. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat 3 times for one set.
  6. Complete this stretch again after 30 minutes of sitting.
Levator Scapulae Stretch

Stretch #2: Levator Scapulae Stretch

  1. Sit comfortably in your chair with your knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet firmly on the floor.
  2. Place one hand behind your lower back to ensure a correct lumbar lordosis.
  3. With your head, look over to the right side and diagonally downwards towards your armpit.
  4. Place your right hand onto the occiput (the bony part of the base of your skull).
  5. Use the weight of your arm to stretch the neck in a downward and diagonal direction.
  6. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat 3 times for one set.
  7. Swap sides and repeat.
  8. Complete this stretch again after 30 minutes of sitting.
Sitting Piriformis Stretch

Stretch #3: Sitting Piriformis Stretch

  1. Sit comfortably in your chair with your knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet firmly on the floor.
  2. With one leg at a time, place your ankle across your opposite knee, as though you are crossing your legs individually.
  3. Ensure that you maintain a small lumbar lordosis with a contracted core to optimise the position of your pelvis and lumbar spine.
  4. Push down gently on the crossed leg’s knee to stretch the piriformis muscle (located on the outside of the gluteal region).
  5. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times for one set.
  6. Swap sides and repeat.
  7. Complete this stretch again after 30 minutes of sitting.
If you suffer from scoliosis, or another spinal condition, and you are looking for an effective non-surgical treatment route, please contact Scoliosis SOS today to learn about our ScolioGold therapy courses.