Scoliosis and Weightlifting

Weightlifting has the potential to be quite a damaging pastime for people with scoliosis, but it can also be beneficial in the correct circumstances. If approached carefully, weight-based exercise may help to improve muscle balance and reduce the visibility of one's spinal curvature.

In this blog post, we'll discuss a few things to bear in mind if you have scoliosis and you plan to start lifting weights.

Weightlifting might be painful - don't push yourself too hard!

Would-be weightlifters with scoliosis need to be mindful of their condition at all times. Start with small weights and simple exercises to gauge what's comfortable and what isn't. Work with a comfortable weight for the first few weeks, and then step up your weight a little bit and see how you feel.

Don't do anything that causes you pain - you should avoid certain back-focused exercises like deadlifts, squats or lunges unless you are certain you can handle them. Bending and straightening your back while carrying weight is likely to cause injury. Speak to your GP to discuss what weightlifting exercises are appropriate for your condition; you could also enlist the help of a personal trainer to guide you while you're lifting.

Focus on exercises that stretch your back muscles instead of compressing them.

Here are some weightlifting exercises you may wish to try if you have scoliosis:

  • Pull-down cable exercises
  • Rowing
  • Seated exercises

Stretching and strengthening the muscles on the concave side of your spinal curve can gradually help to improve mobility and reduce pain. That's because the muscles on the convex side usually do most of the work for you back - these are muscles that have been trying to keep your back upright since you developed scoliosis.

Convex and Concave Sides

The concave muscles, however, are often shorter and atrophied (weaker), so working on these muscles can help to correct your scoliosis curve.

How can Scoliosis SOS help?

If you have scoliosis and you're interested in pursuing weightlifting or another physically-demanding leisure activity, we recommend coming to our clinic for a consultation to establish how severe your condition is. Our consultants will be able to offer advice about the best types of exercise for you and what you can work towards in the future.

Our 4-week ScolioGold treatment courses are ideal if you want to work towards being able to lift weights (or to carry on weightlifting, if this was a hobby you enjoyed before you were diagnosed). Click the button below to get in touch and book your initial consultation.

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Horseback riding with scoliosis

The Grand National horse race is fast approaching, and this always raises a lot of questions for our scoliosis patients who are keen riders.

Horse riding is a very enjoyable hobby, and one that many ScolioGold patients are very passionate about. However, it can cause problems due to the high impact placed on the rider's lower spine.

Can I still ride a horse if I have scoliosis?

The advice we give to all of our patients is that they never have to give up on the things they are passionate about. The simple answer is to ensure that you exercise properly in order to maintain a strong core. This should give you the ability to support the spine in a balanced symmetric position.

We also recommend that our patients pay attention to their hip position and keep an even weight across their pelvis. This can be a challenge for scoliosis patients, who often have one hip higher than the other (which causes uneven weight distribution). However, this can be corrected through specific ScolioGold exercises and strengthening the muscles surrounding the spine.

Did you know?

Horse riding is actually recommended by many health professionals, as it can encourage good posture and promote a strong core when done correctly.

Scoliosis patient and horse

People we've helped

We have treated lots of horse riders with scoliosis. One of them - Rosie from Twickenham - was featured in her local newspaper (see clipping above) after we helped her to overcome the pain and discomfort that was threatening to put her out of the saddle for good.

Another keen rider, Madhav, travelled to London from Kolkata to undergo treatment at our clinic. Watch the video below to hear his story.

If you have any further questions about scoliosis and how it may affect your ability to ride, please contact Scoliosis SOS today and we will be able to offer you help and advice, either in person or over the phone (our number is 0207 488 4428).

Athletes With Scoliosis

Many of our patients come to the Scoliosis SOS Clinic with the fear that their condition will prevent them from taking part in their favourite activities. However, while scoliosis may change the way you approach certain activities, it shouldn't stop you from doing the things that you enjoy.

If you're a sports-loving scoliosis sufferer, you'll be pleased to know that there are plenty of athletes with scoliosis, and they certainly haven't let the condition hold them back. Here are just a couple of well-known athletes who will inspire you to keep loving your sport even after a scoliosis diagnosis!

Usain Bolt

Sport: Sprinting

The fastest man on earth. You might be surprised to see Usain Bolt's name on this list, but the Olympic medal-winning world record holder does indeed have a curved spine. Bolt claims that, by training hard and keeping his core and back strong, he was able to overcome the problems scoliosis caused early on in his career. Despite being more prone to injuries, Bolt has learned how to manage his condition and achieve unparalleled success in his field.

Natalie Coughlin

Sport: Swimming

The winner of no fewer than 6 Olympic medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Coughlin also attributes the management of her condition to working hard at her sport. She has spoken about how her scoliosis has sometimes caused her back muscles to lock up, but by keeping her muscles healthy, Coughlin ensures that her 27-degree spinal curve doesn't hold her back from being a very successful competitive swimmer.

Non-surgical scoliosis treatment

We've treated lots of athletes here at Scoliosis SOS - in fact, we did a whole blog post about our sporty success stories! We understand what it means to have a love of sport, and this is why we strive to help patients manage and improve their condition. Our ScolioGold therapy programme has been very effective at tackling the symptoms of scoliosis, which means that patients are generally free to continue pursuing the sports they love. 

Of course, there are some sports that aren't recommended for those suffering with scoliosis, although exceptions can and have been made for those with a passion for said sports. That being said, here is a quick list of the sports that aren't typically recommended for scoliosis patients:

  • Weight lifting 
  • Impact sports (e.g. American football, rugby, hockey)
  • Hard landing sports (e.g. cheerleading, gymnastics)
  • One-sided sports (e.g. skiing, golf)

To find out more about which sports should typically be avoided and why, read our blog post Scoliosis: Sports to Avoid.

If you have any questions about how our non-surgical treatment courses can help with your scoliosis, we are more than happy to help - please contact us today.

Scoliosis sports to avoid

Physical mobility is a prominent issue for scoliosis sufferers, especially those who regularly participate in sports and other forms of physical activity. These activities play a significant role in many people's everyday lives, providing them with a fulfilling sense of self that cannot easily be replaced. 

Whether your chosen activity is a dearly-loved hobby or a career aspiration, the prospect of being unable to participate as a result of your spinal condition can be devastating. In order to provide a greater insight into how scoliosis can impact your ability to perform certain physical activities, today we will look at sports and exercises that scoliosis sufferers are commonly told to avoid, discussing the possible risks involved and how to avoid them. 

Sports to avoid if you suffer from scoliosis

Individuals with scoliosis are commonly told to avoid the following sports and activities:

Weight lifting

When performed incorrectly, weight lifting can be problematic even for people with healthy spines. For scoliosis sufferers, the risk of discomfort and further deterioration increases due to the existing weaknesses caused by having an uneven spine. The abnormalities caused by scoliosis result in unnatural movements within the body, which can be placed under further pressure by repetitive motions and heavy loading.

Impact sports (rugby, hockey, American football)

It is often recommended that scoliosis sufferers avoid or reduce their participation in sports that could cause 'impact injuries', which occur due to high speed bumps and falls during matches (e.g. when a rugby player is tackled and lands on hard ground). This can cause spinal fractures and damage to the joints, which increases the risk of degenerative disorders and further progression for those who already suffer with scoliosis.

Dance, gymnastics and yoga

Activities that involve the bending and flexing of the spine are often discussed as being problematic for those who suffer with scoliosis due to the excessive stress that certain movements can place on your spine. For reasons that are not entirely known, instances of scoliosis are also higher amongst dancers and gymnasts, although there is no clear evidence that the movements themselves lead to scoliosis. It may simply be the case that the condition is more likely to be observed under these circumstances, or that those who are genetically predisposed to excel in these activities are at a higher risk of developing scoliosis.

One-sided sports (tennis, golf, skiing)

Certain sports run the risk of unevenly working the spine due to the fact that one side of the body is placed under increased stress or performs certain movements more than the other. For patients with scoliosis, this can lead to discomfort and further progression of their already uneven spine, causing the rotation of the spine to worsen. 

Does scoliosis mean I have to give up these sports?

Despite the fact that certain movements performed in sports are risky for scoliosis sufferers, this does not mean that you should give up on your life passions as a result of your condition! The key to overcoming the obstacles posed by having an uneven spine is getting to know your individual restrictions and limitations, adjusting your approach to avoid injury, and building up your strength.

While certain sports may be more dangerous for scoliosis sufferers than others, even the activities mentioned above can be performed safely when the sufferer is provided with the right management and treatment programme. This will not only teach you which exercises to avoid, but will also allow you to build strength in weaker areas of your body and retrain your body to avoid movements that place undue stress on these areas.

In the past, we at Scoliosis SOS have treated a number of sportspeople and dancers suffering with scoliosis, many of whom thought that their condition would eventually prevent them from taking part in these activities. Using our ScolioGold treatment method, we delivered a programme that was individually tailored to each of their conditions, allowing them to successfully manage their symptoms and continue to take part.

If you're an active individual with scoliosis and you're worried about the impact of this condition on your ability to participate and compete in sports, please get in touch with the Scoliosis SOS team to discuss how we may be able to help.

Working Out with Scoliosis

Because scoliosis affects the spine, many gym-goers who have been diagnosed with scoliosis stop with their training for fear of damaging their backbone or further exacerbating the curve. But you'll be happy to know that you can continue to train as long as you're careful not to overdo it.

If you suffer from scoliosis and you enjoy training at the gym - or perhaps you're a personal trainer working with a client who suffers from the condition - you should know that you can still work out with a curved spine; in fact, physical therapy is encouraged as it stretches and strengthens the muscles and improves neuromuscular stability around the spine. However, it's important that you don't do anything too strenuous, as this may cause your condition to worsen.

Here is some advice that may help with your training:

  • It's important that you focus on movements that stretch the tightened muscle groups on the inside of your curve, and on movements that strengthen the muscles on the outside of the curve that have been stretched. It's also important that you focus on exercises that improve your 'core' - the central area that holds important stabilising muscles and helps keep the body upright.

  • Kettlebell exercises are a great way to improve strength and motor control. The windmill exercise is perfect for improving flexibility: this technique involves holding a kettlebell above your head, leaning to one side, and trying to touch the ground with your free hand whilst keeping the kettlebell held over your head.

  • It's important that you add weight slowly; progressing too quickly may cause you to strain the muscles surrounding the spine and possibly even damage the spine itself. Avoid overhead presses if they cause any discomfort.

  • If you are feeling any pain and it's limiting your movements, we suggest that you stop your training and visit a licensed physical therapist for an evaluation.

How can Scoliosis SOS help?

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we have a dedicated team of therapists specialising in physical therapy to help treat your spinal curve. Our ScolioGold method is a combination of the Schroth method and a range of other non-surgical spinal techniques from around the world, such as the PNF technique and the FITS method.

We also work to devise scoliosis-beneficial gym-based exercise programmes for our patients, as well as offering advice on what workout positions are best avoided and how these can be substituted with helpful ways to correctly strengthen your muscles while still getting the most out of all the equipment available at your gym.

Using our own combination of methods, we're able to provide you with gold-standard results. If you wish to undergo physical therapy, or if you want to find out more about our non-surgical treatment courses, please do not hesitate to contact us.