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.