For many scoliosis patients, the most difficult aspect of coping with their condition is not the pain or the cosmetic appearance of their back but the physical restrictions that a spinal curvature imposes on their life. This makes scoliosis a particularly problematic and limiting ailment for people with a keen interest in sports and/or other physical activities due to the discomfort, the health risks, and the constraints that stem both from the condition itself and from certain scoliosis treatment methods.
While there is no proven link between swimming and the occurrence of scoliosis, the condition if often detected in those who swim competitively or train regularly, and because of the imbalance caused by a spinal curvature, this can make it difficult to swim in straight lines (among other issues). Although swimming is largely considered to be a beneficial exercise for scoliosis sufferers due to the non-jarring movements and improvements in flexibility and muscle strength, it can also prove challenging for people with curved spines. There are several reasons for this:
- Breathing Capacity - For those with particularly severe curves, scoliosis can lead to reduced lung capacity, which is especially frustrating for swimmers due to the vital role that breath control plays in achieving success on a competitive level.
- Increased Difficulty in Performing Certain Movements - Aside from breathing difficulties, a primary concern for many swimmers with scoliosis is their range of motion, which can be limited by the presence of a spinal curve. While modified movements can facilitate the basic action of propelling oneself through water, this difficulty in executing the desired movements to the best of one's ability can become frustrating for many swimmers, who may find that they are unable to perform at their usual level as their scoliosis progresses.
- Restrictive Treatment Programmes - Supplementing time spent in the pool with other forms of treatment can be beneficial for those with scoliosis, but certain treatment methods can present difficulties for swimmers, particularly those who train on a daily basis. Back braces, for example, are commonly prescribed to younger sufferers as a measure for preventing curve progression, but this approach relies on strong and constant pressure, which means that the brace must be worn for long periods of time. This can make bracing incredibly inconvenient and somewhat ineffective for swimmers, who must remove their brace every time they enter the pool. As for scoliosis sufferers who undergo spinal fusion surgery for their condition, they have to spend several weeks recovering from the operation before they are able to resume their training.
What are the best scoliosis treatment options for swimmers?
For swimmers and other scoliosis sufferers who regularly take part in physical activities, the most beneficial treatment option is often the one that supports their ability to correct and manage their condition without placing unnecessary restrictions on their ability to perform. Over the years, we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic have treated several swimmers, including some who travelled from overseas to complete a treatment course here.
One example is Jessie Bowen from Canada, who was told that she urgently required surgical treatment for her spinal curvature at the age of 14. Being an individual who was very physically active and swam on a daily basis, Jessie found it very difficult to deal with the prospect of spending 6 months laid up while recovering from major surgery. This is what led her family to get in touch with Scoliosis SOS and enrol her onto one of our intensive 4-week treatment programmes. While there were many initial reservations about the cost of travelling to England and receiving treatment, this all proved to be more than worthwhile for Jessie, who reaped both the short- and long-term benefits of our unique treatment approach.
Not only did Jessie experience noticeable improvements in her physical appearance and pain levels, she was also provided with enhanced knowledge about her condition, which granted her the ability to manage her symptoms on a continual basis. The impact of this treatment was so striking, in fact, that Jessie was prompted to pursue a career in physiotherapy, and now works as a qualified practitioner in northern Canada.
If you're a swimmer who suffers with scoliosis, or a similar spinal issue, and would like to find out more about how we can help you to manage and overcome the limitations of your condition, please feel free to get in touch with us today!