Improve Your Flexibility

If you suffer from scoliosis, there's a good chance that you will experience a loss of flexibility as your spinal curvature progresses. This can impact your ability to move around and go about your daily routine; it can also adversely impact your performance if you participate in sports or other physical activities like dancing.

Unfortunately, spinal fusion surgery - the standard treatment for severe scoliosis in most territories - can itself cause a loss of flexibility, and so it's easy for scoliosis patients to feel like they can't win either way. Surgery involves the insertion of numerous rods into the site of the curve, followed by the application of a bone graft that eventually fuses with the spine; this procedure is often very effective, and it has enabled countless scoliosis sufferers to enjoy a better overall quality of life, but from a flexibility standpoint it's far from ideal.

But as we've seen time and again here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, it is possible for scoliosis patients to regain their flexibility and continue taking part in the activities they love.

Improving your flexibility through exercise

Certain stretches and exercises can have a very positive effect on scoliosis and the problematic symptoms that patients commonly experience. ScolioGold, the combination of non-surgical treatment methods that the Scoliosis SOS team use to treat people with curved spines, is primarily exercise-based, and it has proven incredibly effective when it comes to:

Visit our Results page to see before-and-after photos that demonstrate how effective ScolioGold treatment can be, or watch some of our patient experience videos to find out what some of our previous patients had to say post-treatment.

Which exercises should I try?

Every case of scoliosis is unique, and we strongly recommend that you attend an initial consultation so that we can assess your condition and recommend the best course of action for you.

However, if you are looking for some exercises that you can perform at home today, try the following links:

You may also wish to read our guide to Scoliosis Exercises to Avoid in order to make yourself aware of what stretches/exercises risk making your condition worse.

Whether you're struggling with scoliosis or recovering after a spinal fusion procedure, Scoliosis SOS can help you to regain your flexibility and move around more easily. Click here to see upcoming treatment course dates, or get in touch now to arrange an initial consultation.

Rachel Mulvaney is the Vice President of Curvy Girls, an international support group for girls with scoliosis. You might remember that we interviewed the group's founder, Leah Stoltz, on the Scoliosis SOS blog last year - this time around, we have a Q&A with Rachel, whose scoliosis story is rather different from Leah's but no less inspirational.

Curvy Girls Scoliosis

So, Rachel - when did you first learn that you had scoliosis?

I was nine years old when my school nurse detected my curves during a scoliosis screening examination. With a 35-degree curve, bracing was immediately recommended - I wore a brace 16 hours a day for nearly 3 years. However, several months after I'd been discharged from bracing, my back pain worsened and we learned that my curve had progressed to 42 degrees.

It was during this time that my mother was doing research for the book that we were writing, Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls. We learned about a scoliosis-specific exercise called the Schroth method, and in 2010, I travelled to a scoliosis clinic in Wisconsin for an intensive two-week programme.

And how well did the treatment work?

I believe it worked very well for me. The back brace did stabilise my curves, but my scoliosis continued to progress as I was never educated on how to hold my body in an upright position without depending on my brace. It was the Schroth method that improved my scoliosis and eliminated my chronic back pain. Those scoliosis-specific exercises taught me how to strengthen my weakened muscles, maintain correction, and most importantly, live a pain-free life.

After eight months of consistently doing the exercises, my 42-degree curve reduced to 30 degrees. This was a surprise to my orthopaedic surgeon, as I was already skeletally matured. And my success did not end there - by the summer of 2013, my curved had reduced to 22 degrees.

How did you get involved with Curvy Girls?

I became involved with Curvy Girls before we even had a formal name! Twelve years ago, my physical therapist introduced me to Leah Stoltz, who told me that she wanted to start a scoliosis support group for people our age. When she asked if I would be interested in attending a meeting, I said yes without any hesitation. Several weeks later, I went to the first meeting at her home on 6th August 2006.

Tell us about the role you play in Curvy Girls today.

Today, I am proud to say that I am the Vice President of Curvy Girls. Since 2012, I have co-led and co-created our International Biennial Curvy Girls Scoliosis Conventions with Leah. I also serve as a mentor for our Curvy Girl Leaders in the New York and New England regions.

I also make myself available to educate and advocate for the Schroth method. Over the years, I have invited medical professionals (as well as newly-diagnosed families) into my home to demonstrate how effective these exercises can be for a scoliotic spine.

And what do you do in your life outside of Curvy Girls?

Outside of Curvy Girls, I work as a Care Coordinator II at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where I facilitate and manage an oncologists' clinic and help run our chemotherapy unit. I am also preparing to go back to college to receive my master's in Public Health. I have a strong interest in research, epidemiology and preventative care.

Has helping other people with their spinal curves helped you to come to terms with your own condition and experiences?

Absolutely - helping other girls was like a form of medicine to me. Educating families about the Schroth method helped me to discover a purpose and drive within me that I never knew existed.

Throughout my bracing years, I was told that my chronic back pain did not exist because scoliosis 'does not cause any pain'. I was one of many patients who were spoken to in this way. But after learning a programme that both validated and eliminated my pain, I was determined to spread the word. I wanted to make sure all Curvy Girl families had the opportunity to know that this treatment existed. How can we make the best decisions for our health if we don't know what all of our options are?

What advice would you give to a young girl who's just been diagnosed with scoliosis?

I would encourage that young girl to join a Curvy Girls chapter so she can see for herself that she is not alone. I would tell her about our conventions and how many girls she will meet from all around the world who are going through the same experiences she is.

And what advice would you give to the people close to them?

For family members, I would advise them to read Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls. This book includes health education, emotional support, and a dedicated section for parents.

For teachers, please show empathy and understanding of the needs she may have. Allow her to step away from her desk if she begins to feel back pain, as sitting for too long in a back brace can lead to discomfort. Excuse her from class if she needs to temporarily leave and take her brace off.

For friends, please be kind and accepting. This is a sensitive time for your friend. Offer to take her shopping to find clothes that will make her feel more confident when she wears her brace to school. You could even suggest helping her name her brace in order to make the brace a part of the friendship you all share.

Visit www.curvygirlsscoliosis.com to learn more about Curvy Girls, or follow @CurvyGirlsScoli on Twitter.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we treat scoliosis using a Schroth-based programme called ScolioGold therapy - learn all about it here.

Scoliosis treatment options

Scoliosis can affect anyone at any age, and the effect it has on the patient's day to day life varies greatly from one case to the next. As a result, there isn't a one-size-fits-all treatment option for scoliosis - we at Scoliosis SOS take each individual's circumstances into account in order to create a tailor-made treatment that is designed to help their specific needs. The treatment options we recommend have the unique idiosyncrasies of your condition in mind at all times.

The right form of scoliosis treatment for you will often depend on how severe your curve is; for instance, many medical professionals will recommend surgery if your curve is beyond a certain angle. However, surgery is far from the only available option - here is a broad overview of some of the scoliosis treatment options that are currently available to individuals with curved spines:

Scoliosis surgery

Surgery

Surgical intervention is often recommended in very severe cases of scoliosis. Spinal fusion surgery treats the condition by anchoring tiny rods, hooks and screws to the spine itself. By applying a bone graft that eventually fuses with the spine, surgery aims to prevent your spine from curving any further. To learn what it's like to undergo spinal fusion surgery, read our blog post on the subject here.

Bracing

Bracing

If the patient is still growing (i.e. a child or teenager), they may have to wear a brace to prevent their spinal curve progressing while their body finishes growing. Bracing doesn't reverse spinal curvature, but it can be an effective way to prevent scoliosis from getting worse.

Scoliogold

Physical Therapy

Many patients would rather avoid surgery if possible because of the risks associated with the spinal fusion procedure. This is why we created the ScolioGold therapy programmme: to help patients seeking a less invasive treatment that actually works. ScolioGold therapy combines various non-surgical methods that have been proven to help improve the effects of the condition. Here are just a few of the techniques we use to provide scoliosis sufferers with a real alternative to scoliosis surgery:

When a combination of these treatments are tailored to your specific circumstances, it can drastically reduce your Cobb angle.

If you are looking for non-surgical scoliosis treatment options, we would be happy to discuss your condition with you. Contact us today to book an initial consultation.

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.

Playing the violin with scoliosis

Standing for long periods and holding bulky musical instruments can cause problems for musicians with scoliosis.

Heavy instruments, such as the cello and the tuba, can be especially difficult to play (not to mention carry around!) if you suffer from back problems. Playing the violin, meanwhile, has a tendency to place asymmetrical stress on the muscles down one side of the spine.

But don't be alarmed - your scoliosis doesn't mean you have to give up your musical activities. Many people with scoliosis worry about having to give up the hobbies they enjoy, but here at Scoliosis SOS, we help patients to manage their symptoms and keep doing whatever they enjoy most. Your therapist will ensure that you are given adequate education in addition to your tailored exercise programme, and you should continue to see improvements even after you have left the clinic.

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How ScolioGold therapy can help musicians

ScolioGold therapy is our own highly effective combination of non-invasive scoliosis treatment techniques. Among other things, this programme is designed to strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, bringing the patient into a more central upright position while also decreasing pain and preventing further progression.

We use a range of different methods to help our patients, including the Schroth technique, which has been used to successfully treat scoliosis patients for decades. Exercise and appropriate education gives our musically-inclined patients the tools and knowledge they need to manage their condition at home and avoid invasive operations that can rob them of the flexibility their instrument requires.

 

Case Study: Jasmine from Northwood

One of our patients, 12-year-old violinist Jasmine Turner, feared that she would have to give up music because of her scoliosis. Violinists often have to twist into awkward positions while playing, and Jasmine's rapidly-progressing spinal curve made this challenging.

However, following a four-week treatment course at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, she has managed to avoid spinal fusion surgery and get back to playing the violin. Read Jasmine's story at getwestlondon.co.uk.

If you're interested in attending a ScolioGold treatment course, please call us on +44 (0)207 488 4428 or contact us online.

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