Weight scales and tape measure

Maintaining a healthy weight can be a tough task for people with scoliosis, especially those who find themselves in perpetual pain and discomfort as a result of their condition.

Chronic back pain can slam the brakes on physical activity - even when the mind is willing, you may feel physically unable to get up and exercise, and this can take its toll on your overall fitness.

But that doesn't mean you have to throw the towel in and resign yourself to a life of inactivity. Luckily, there are a whole host of ways for scoliosis patients to stay healthy and keep weight gain at bay.

 

Exercise caution

While it might seem like exercising with scoliosis is putting yourself on the fast track to a bad back, it can actually have the opposite effect - as long as you're careful.

Staying active can be beneficial for your body in a number of ways, helping you stay slim and trim while also keeping your body limber and flexible.

Being smart about the exercises you choose can make a huge difference, so be sure to exercise caution before you exercise your body.

In the weight room, heavy deadlifts are obviously not a good choice for someone with spinal issues. The same goes for other back-heavy exercises, like good-mornings and power cleans. Meanwhile, lower-body exercises like squats and lunges can also put indirect pressure on your spine.

Exercises to Avoid If You Have Scoliosis >>

Even some yoga positions, such as the cobra pose, can cause your vertebrae to rotate beyond the point of comfort. Be smart and avoid exercises that are likely to put considerable strain on your spine.

Strengthening your core can be a great way to alleviate discomfort, while regular stretching can also help to reduce back pain.

 

Young at heart

Running can put a lot of stress on the spine, jarring the body every time your feet hit the ground. As such, going out for a jog or hitting the treadmill may be a bad idea - but that doesn't mean cardio is completely off the table.

Most gyms have elliptical trainers (cross trainers) that allow you to exercise in a fluid motion without the jarring effect of running. Similarly, the stair climber is also a good way to get your cardio fix while reducing the impact on your spine.

Another great way to maintain and improve cardiovascular fitness with scoliosis is swimming. The buoyancy of the water minimises impact on the joints while still providing resistance, making it the ideal cardio exercise for scoliosis sufferers.

Swimming with Scoliosis >>

That being said, these exercises can be challenging for people with severe scoliosis, particularly those with reduced lung capacity. If you are unable to complete the above exercises, it may be worth considering less strenuous options, such as walking or aqua aerobics.

 

Smoke signals

If you're a smoker, another great way to stay in shape is to - you guessed it - give up smoking.

Quitting smoking can help improve lung capacity by as much as 10% within nine months, and this can help considerably when it comes to exercise. Qutting will also improve your circulation, providing additional energy and reducing fatigue.

However, quitting smoking isn't without its challenges. In addition to being a notoriously hard habit to break, it can also lead to some initial weight gain.

This is due to the fact that smoking suppresses your appetite and speeds up your metabolism. Meanwhile, it can be tempting to use food as a replacement for cigarettes - many ex-smokers find themselves snacking to fill the void.

That being said, while you may gain weight at first, giving up smoking will pay dividends in the long run - both in the gym and from a pain standpoint. A 1999 study by the Division of Clinical Epidemiology at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal found that smoking can exacerbate back pain, particularly in scoliosis sufferers. All the more reason to bin the cigs!

 

You are what you eat

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, diet plays a huge role in weight management. Even with plenty of exercise, you can't out-train a bad diet - so be sensible when it comes to junk food and unhealthy snacks.

If your scoliosis is severe and limits your ability to exercise, a healthy diet is vital in maintaining a healthy weight. Removing exercise from the equation puts you at a disadvantage to begin with, making a healthy diet all the more important.

What's more, certain foods are beneficial for reducing scoliosis symptoms, while others can only amplify those symptoms. Food and drinks that are rich in salt, sugar or caffeine can have a negative effect on calcium absorption, while alcohol can also contribute to poor bone density.

Avoid foods rich in additives, such as ready meals and fast food. Meanwhile, try to limit your consumption of soft drinks, tea, coffee and alcohol. Eating organic meals and fresh fruit and veg will give your body a fighting chance of fat loss, while also giving you a simultaneous boost in the bone department.

Best Diet for Scoliosis >>

If you would like to explore the possibility of non-surgical treatment for your scoliosis, please contact the Scoliosis SOS Clinic to arrange a consultation.

The Scoliosis SOS Clinic was founded in 2006 by our Clinic Principal, Erika Maude. Erika opened the clinic because she herself had suffered from scoliosis since childhood and wanted to offer people an alternative to spinal fusion surgery.

Here, Erika answers some questions about her personal experience with scoliosis and her future plans for the clinic.

Scoliosis SOS Clinic founder Erika Maude

Can you tell us a bit about your experience with scoliosis?

My mother first noticed that something was wrong with my back when I was bending over one day. She took me along to our GP, who diagnosed me as having AIS (adolescent idiopathic scoliosis) but told us not to worry as I would likely "grow out of it". Over the coming months, this didn't happen, and after countless appointments back with the GP she finally convinced him that my condition was getting worse and to refer me to see an orthopaedic consultant.

The orthopaedic specialist took one look at my 34-degree curvature on an X-ray and pronounced me an immediate case for spinal fusion surgery. I eventually persuaded him to let me try the alternative: a Boston brace (hard plastic corset), worn for 23 hours per day between my 13th and 15th birthdays.

Unfortunately this didn't work, and after 2 years my curve had progressed to 42 degrees. My consultant warned me that if I didn't have surgery, I'd end up in a wheelchair.

 

What inspired you to set up the Scoliosis SOS clinic?

After that fatalistic prognosis from my orthopaedic consultant, my family set about finding an alternative, which eventually lead us to a tiny clinic in Spain where I went to receive treatment in 2003.

My inspiration to open the clinic came from a desire to keep people from having to go through the experience I had, and also to help the people who are failed by the lack of options available through the NHS. It is so empowering to see patients of all ages take control of their condition and care, and it's wonderful that we've been able to help so many people from all over the world.

 

What advice would you give someone who has just been diagnosed with scoliosis?

Definitely act promptly! Never underestimate how aggressive scoliosis can be, particularly in children. My friend recently diagnosed her granddaughter with the help of our screening video (see below), which I'd shared on my Facebook page. It was great to see the family act so quickly to get her referred for an X-ray and get started with an exercise programme while they waited for an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist.

With adults it's a little different, but depending on one's lifestyle, symptoms can still develop or worsen rapidly - that's often what has caused the condition to be noticed in the first place. Don't suffer in silence; there are lots of support groups and sympathetic people you can talk to. Our patient care co-ordinators enjoy answering questions and offering advice to patients and their families following a recent diagnosis or hospital appointment.

 

What are your goals for the clinic over the next year?

We are in the process of developing regional clinics to make treatment more accessible to people across the UK. Our first locations in Birmingham and Bristol opened last month, and we're planning to add further locations in early 2020.

 

What do you get up to when you're not working?

I love being active, so after work, I'm often to be found at Pineapple Dance Studios learning a new routine - it's a great way to forget the stresses of the day and really switch off. Such a diverse group of people attend my class, from semi-professional dancers to senior partners of City law firms; it's a brilliant way to socialise and keep fit at the same time.

When I get a bit longer out of the office, I enjoy getting out on the water. A couple of years ago I sailed across the Atlantic, but usually, it is more coastal cruising, although recently I've really got into learning about celestial navigation…

Erika on a boat

If, like Erika, you've been diagnosed with scoliosis and it's causing you distress, be sure to explore our exercise-based scoliosis treatment courses.

Our Treatment Methods   Book a Consultation

Scoliosis clinic locations map

Are you looking for safe and effective non-surgical treatment for your scoliosis or another spinal condition, but you're unable to travel to our world-famous flagship centre in London? Then look no further - due to popular request, Scoliosis SOS have launched two new centres to expand our services in Birmingham and Bristol!

Both new locations offer the same high standards of specialist care for our patients and our scientifically-proven ScolioGold treatment is provided on an outpatient basis, with a choice of 1-hour, 2-hour or 3-hour sessions to fit around work and school commitments.

Our dedicated therapists will formulate a customised treatment plan for you (including education to help you fully understand your condition and how our therapy works, specific exercises, stretches, plus lots of hands-on therapy), to address your symptoms and goals. One-to-one in-clinic sessions will be combined with a home exercise schedule to help each patient achieve and maintain the optimum results for their condition.

ScolioGold treatment combines the best treatment techniques from across the globe (including the Schroth, FITS & SEAS methods to name a few) with the aim of helping patients attain postural correction, improvements in Cobb angle, pain relief, an increase in their quality of life, and a return to the activities they love.

To celebrate the opening of our new Birmingham and Bristol locations, we are offering a 25% discount for 10-session blocks booked during December 2019. Call 0207 488 4428 to book your treatment.

 

Where are the new clinics?

 

Birmingham: At One, 10 Great Western Arcade, Birmingham, B2 5HU

 

Bristol: The Foot & Body Mechanic, 417 Gloucester Road, Bristol, BS7 8TZ

 

Contact us or call one of the clinics above for more information or to book an appointment.

Scoliosis surgery newspaper headlines

Earlier this week, Channel 4 aired a documentary called Save My Child. It focused on two young people with lifelong health conditions and their families' efforts to raise the funds for private treatment.

One of the children featured was Mia, a 15-year-old girl with scoliosis. Here's a clip from the programme:

Mia's curved spine, along with the scoliosis brace that she had to wear for 23 hours a day, meant that she was in near-constant pain. At the start of Save My Child, we see Mia lying awake at night and struggling with everyday tasks like tying her shoelaces.

Frustrated with the long waiting lists for spinal fusion surgery - and fearing that Mia's condition would only get worse with time - her family started researching alternatives. Eventually, they decided to travel to Turkey so that Mia could undergo vertebral body tethering (VBT) surgery.

The Channel 4 programme primarily focused on how Mia's family managed to raise tens of thousands of pounds to pay for private surgery. What it didn't do was take a critical look at the VBT procedure itself and how effective it actually is.

 

Is VBT a good alternative to spinal fusion surgery?

First of all, it's important to note that VBT is a rather controversial topic here in the UK. It was the subject of much discussion at the recent British Scoliosis Society conference in Cardiff - many British families go abroad for VBT, with Germany and Turkey the most popular destinations, but in many cases there are no formal standards in place for this procedure. And if complications occur back home, the NHS must then pick up the cost of fixing an operation that was paid for privately in a different country!

Fortunately, the outcome for Mia was a positive one ("I'm a lot happier now," she told Channel 4), but here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we've met a number of scoliosis patients who weren't so lucky. One family came to see us after their daughter had undergone the VBT procedure in Turkey - they were concerned that she didn't look any different, and in the end they signed her up for a ScolioGold treatment course, an option they had previously passed up in favour of the VBT route.

 

Potential complications of VBT

If you need another reason to think twice before going abroad for VBT surgery, we have met multiple scoliosis patients who ended up suffering from pleurisy after the procedure. This is a sharp pain in the chest that occurs when you take a deep breath.

Still other patients found that the tethering had been done on the wrong side of the spine, making their scoliosis worse and creating nerve complications.

Finally, it should be noted that the death rate for VBT is 3%. This is significantly higher than spinal fusion surgery.

 

A safer alternative to spinal fusion

While vertebral body tethering may become a more viable option in the future, there simply isn't enough evidence of its effectiveness just yet (this is the main reason why VBT isn't currently available on the NHS).

The Scoliosis SOS Clinic's physiotherapy-based scoliosis treatment courses offer a non-invasive, low-risk alternative to scoliosis surgery. We have helped patients of all ages to manage their severe spinal curves and live happier, more active lives. On many occasions, our treatment programme has reduced the angle of the patient's curvature to a point where they're no longer a candidate for surgery at all!

Our Patient Stories   Book a Consultation

Further Reading:

Mindfulness meditation

At its most basic, 'mindfulness' refers to an individual's conscious presence in the here and now, focusing on the moment and one's current surroundings.

But mindfulness also extends to the way we react to situations, with a strong emphasis on maintaining a calm and calculated approach to what's going on.

"What does that have to do with scoliosis?" we hear you ask. Well, potentially, quite a lot.

 

Mindfulness and Pain Relief

According to the Dalai Lama, "if a person's basic state of mind is serene and calm, then it is possible for this inner peace to overwhelm a painful physical experience".

In other words, practising mindfulness can help us to cope with physical pain and discomfort as well as being a useful stress management technique.

 

A Brief History of Mindfulness and Scoliosis

This holistic approach to long-term medical conditions is nothing new. In fact, way back in the 4th century BC, Hippocrates was believed to have stressed the healing power of nature and said to have encouraged self-healing methods.

Additionally, it's well-documented that methods not unlike mindfulness have been in use for centuries, notably playing a big role in the ancient medical traditions of both India and China. Meanwhile, Buddhist monks have long been associated with this meditative approach to health and wellbeing.

 

Mindfulness Studies and Results

According to an article published on RelaxTheBack.com, a study conducted by the University of Montreal compared the pain tolerance of Zen monks well-versed in meditation to that of non-meditators.

The results showed that the monks' pain sensitivity rate was 18% lower, while MRI results concluded that they also had a thicker orbitofrontal cortex, suggesting that this area of the brain was responsible for meditation-based pain relief.

A further study by the University of California, San Diego found that, after completing a 20-minute mindfulness meditation session each day for just 4 days, test subjects reduced their pain response by 44%. The same test was done on another group, replacing meditation with a dose of morphine. The morphine resulted in a pain reduction of just 20%.

Additional evidence was published in the April 2011 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, which reported that 80 minutes of mindfulness meditation could cut pain perception almost in half.

 

Mindfulness and Scoliosis

So let's apply this theory to scoliosis. If the above figures are correct, theoretically, modern-day mindfulness techniques could help to decrease scoliosis pain.

What's more, the mental benefits may also help scoliosis sufferers to cope with the condition psychologically, fending off the anxiety and depression that can accompany long-term ailments like scoliosis.

 

Practice Mindfulness with Scoliosis

Stereotypical meditation positioning requires you to be sat up straight, cross-legged on the floor. This may not be very comfortable for someone with scoliosis!

Luckily, mindfulness meditation can be modified to fit your body's needs. Whether you need to use a chair, sit against a wall or lie down on your back, you're free to find the position that's most comfortable for you.

Daily meditation in a relaxed environment could be a great way to help combat the negative effects of scoliosis. At the very least, it's definitely worth a shot.

Learn about our scoliosis treatment methods >

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