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.

Running
 
People with scoliosis sometimes find it more difficult to move around than people with healthy spines. This can be a big problem for sports enthusiasts with curved spines: mobility and flexibility are two very important attributes when you're engaging in physical activities, and some scoliosis sufferers struggle to perform to the best of their abilities when it comes to athletic pursuits.
 
Running is one sport where the presence of a spinal curvature can cause real problems for the athlete. Today, we're going to look at what exactly scoliosis can mean for runners before exploring some possible treatment options.

How does scoliosis affect a runner's performance?

Scoliosis can affect a person's ability to run in a number of different ways:
  • A curved spine often leads to pain and discomfort, which can eat away at a runner's stamina and endurance - especially when it lasts for long periods. (Some scoliosis sufferers find swimming to be a more comfortable, less painful form of exercise.)

  • In some cases, an abnormally large spinal curve can cause reduced lung capacity, resulting in compromised breathing. Breathing is a crucial part of running (particularly distance running, e.g. marathons), and scoliosis can sometimes cause problems by making it difficult for the runner to catch their breath.

  • When scoliosis causes reduced flexibility, it may impair a runner's performance by limiting their range of movement.

Does running make scoliosis worse?

In addition to the above considerations, runners with scoliosis also have to be wary of making their spinal curve even worse. Scoliosis often progresses over time anyway, but certain physical activities - including running - may speed up this process, in some cases increasing the patient's Cobb angle quite rapidly.
 
This happens because of the way a runner's back rotates and flexes with every step. Running on paved or hard surfaces can further increase the load on a scoliotic spine, which serves to intensify the daily effects of gravity on the less-than-adequately-supported vertebrae and ultimately causes the condition to progress.

Treatment options for runners with scoliosis

Some of the recommended treatments for scoliosis can be just as limiting as the spinal curvature itself. Wearing a back brace can help to halt the progression of the curve, but that rigid plastic shell dramatically inhibits the wearer's movements. Spinal fusion surgery may be recommended once the Cobb angle has reached a certain point, but again, this procedure can leave the patient with drastically reduced mobility and flexibility.
 
Don't worry, though - scoliosis doesn't have to spell the end for your running career. (Did you know that Usain Bolt, the world's fastest man himself, is a scoliosis sufferer?) The non-surgical treatment courses that we offer here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic consistently get fantastic results, minimising the symptoms of scoliosis without any intrusive corrective measures or procedures.

Shona's story

Shona Hargreave, a teenager from Merseyside, visited our clinic in 2014 because she was concerned that her spinal curve would put a premature end to her competitive running career.
 
Shona, a runner with scoliosis
Image source: St Helens Reporter
 
Her scoliosis was manifesting itself in a range of symptoms, including:
  • Back pain
  • Reduced breathing capacity
  • Asymmetrical appearance
Our ScolioGold therapy helped Shona to overcome these symptoms and return to training. Here's what she had to say about her time at the clinic:
 
"When I was told I had scoliosis, I didn't really understand - no one ever sat me down and explained what was going on in my back until I got to the Scoliosis SOS Clinic.

"The staff there were amazing. They made me feel normal again, and encouraged me to carry on living a normal life. The exercises weren't too hard; you just had to think about what you were doing.
 
"Everything has changed this year. I feel alive, health, happy, and I cannot wait to get back to running."
 
You can read more about Shona at www.sthelensreporter.co.uk. If you would like to book a consultation with Scoliosis SOS, please get in touch today.
James, Tennis Player & Scoliosis SOS Patient

Many of the patients we treat here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic have a keen interest in sports. From rugby players and footballers to jockeys and kickboxers, we must have welcomed just about every type of sportsperson there is through the doors of our clinic!

Mind you, this isn't a coincidence - while scoliosis can have a colossal impact on anyone's life, being diagnosed with a curvature of the spine can be particularly devastating for dedicated sportspeople. Scoliosis regularly leads to muscular imbalance and impaired flexibility / mobility, and when the patient is involved with sports or other physical activities, these symptoms may have a very negative effect on their performance.

It therefore stands to reason that sportspeople with scoliosis have more reason than most to seek an effective means of managing the condition. Happily, ScolioGold therapy (our own treatment method, specifically tailored to the unique needs of scoliosis sufferers) has proven to be a very effective means of tackling scoliosis and helping scoliotic sports enthusiasts to keep on performing to the very best of their abilities.

Here are just a few of the sport-loving scoliosis patients whom we've helped over the years:

Rugby player with scoliosis

Hannah (15, Swansea)

Rugby player

Rugby can be rough even on a completely healthy body, and so 15-year-old Hannah understandably though that her rugby-playing days were over when she was diagnosed with a 37-degree curve in her spine. Fortunately, she happened to be watching TV when our founder Erika Maude was being interviewed on the BBC, and our treatment course left her in less pain, with a better posture and the ability to take part in demanding physical activities once again.


Tennis player with scoliosis

James (15, Birmingham)

Tennis player

Spinal fusion surgery would likely have brought James's tennis days to an abrupt end. "Sitting on the sidelines and watching my friends having fun was soul-destroying," he said of his time away from the court. However, his parents came across our clinic online and he was "ecstatic" when they told him that they'd found an alternative to surgery. After the treatment, James said that he had a "new lease of life" and was looking forward to a full summer of tennis.


Kickboxer with scoliosis

Paige (13, Birmingham)

Kickboxer

Paige was an enthusiastic young kickboxer from the West Midlands who came to the Scoliosis SOS Clinic (then located in Suffolk) with a 54-degree spinal curve. She was distraught at the prospect of having steel rods inserted into her back, not least because this would likely leave her unable to participate in her favourite sport any longer. In the end, however, a ScolioGold treatment course and an ongoing exercise regime ensured that she could carry on as before.


Jockey with scoliosis on horse

Rosie (18, London)

Jockey

Rosie, a keen horse rider from Twickenham, was experiencing a lot of pain and discomfort due to her scoliosis - especially while she was on horseback. Worried that this might scupper her ambitions to become a professional jockey, Rosie came to the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, and our non-surgical treatment course got her back on track.


Footballer with scoliosis

Sophie (18, Essex)

Footballer

Sophie was diagnosed with scoliosis after a football match left her with an agonising pain in her back. She came to us because she was determined to avoid undergoing surgery, and six months after the day of her diagnosis (when her mum commented on how hunched-over she looked), she was able to stand up straight and get back on the football pitch again.

If you or a loved one need scoliosis treatment, please contact Scoliosis SOS to book an initial consultation.