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.
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.
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.