When scoliosis starts causing pain, many patients find relief through stretching.
Stretching with scoliosis can help alleviate back by releasing tension in the muscles surrounding the spine. It also increases blood flow and lubrication in the joints, which helps keep the body limber.
While a normal spine moves from side to side (e.g. while walking), “people with scoliosis can bend only in one direction and are unable to access movement in the opposite direction,” says Rocky Snyder, a personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist. As you determine which side of your body lacks elasticity, you can focus your stretching on that area to help relieve discomfort, improve flexibility, and increase your range of motion.
But keep in mind that scoliosis back stretches can work counter-intuitively.
While stretching in the opposite direction of your spinal curve would seem to make sense, it does little to impact the source of the pain (postural imbalance). Stretching further in the direction your already spine bends, on the other hand, can cause the elongated muscles to pull back and shorten a bit, which helps balance out your posture.
Below are some simple scoliosis stretches you can do at home or in the gym to temporarily relieve back pain. Stretching with scoliosis is most beneficial when done on a regular basis; start with a few times a week, then work your way up.
Begin by holding each stretch for 30 seconds and repeating it two or three times. As the stretches become more comfortable, you can gradually increase the amount of time you spend in each one.
Scoliosis Stretch #1
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms in front of your chest
- Pull your arms backwards and press your shoulder blades together, stretching the chest
Scoliosis Stretch #2
Right-Angle Wall Stretch
- Place your hands on a wall at shoulder level, shoulder-width apart
- Walk your feet back until they are directly under your hips
- Push your palms into the wall, lengthening your spine
- Keep your lower back tucked in and arms straight
Scoliosis Stretch #3
This is one of the simplest scoliosis back stretches you can do.
- Stand with your arms extended in front of your chest
- Lace your fingers and push them away from your chest until your feel a stretch in your upper back
Scoliosis Stretch #4
- Kneel, then push your hips back toward your heels
- Reach your arms forward and lay your hands flat on the floor
- Breathe into the stretch
Scoliosis Stretch #5
Up and Down Dog
- In a prone plank position (i.e. forearms on the mat in front of you with elbows directly under your shoulders), push your hips back as far as possible
- Hold for two seconds, then lower your hips toward the floor (as low as possible without discomfort)
Scoliosis Stretch #6
- Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet wider than hip-width apart
- Bend forward, grabbing your elbows with the opposite hands, until the crown of your head faces the floor
- Breathe deeply and let the stretch expand slowly, allowing your spine to hang
Scoliosis Stretch #7
Lower Back Stretch
- Lie on your stomach with your legs and arms extended straight out
- Raise your left arm and right leg toward the ceiling and hold for 5-10 seconds
- Repeat with the opposite arm and leg
Scoliosis Stretch #8
- Lie on your back with your legs extended
- Gently pull the left knee toward your chest with both hands, keeping your foot lifted toward the ceiling
- Stretch as far as you can without pain and hold
- Repeat on the other side
Scoliosis Stretch #9
- Kneel on all fours and face forward with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders, fingers spaced wide apart
- As you exhale, contract your abdomen to push your stomach toward your spine, while curving your back toward the ceiling
Scoliosis Stretch #10
- Sit with your legs crossed and back to a wall
- Use both hands to grasp a small ball or rolled-up towel
- Raise the object over your head and stretch upward, keeping your elbows against the wall
Scoliosis Exercises for Long-Term Treatment
While simple stretches such as these can temporarily relieve scoliosis pain, they are not a long-term treatment.
There are, however, scoliosis exercises that achieve long-term results by retraining the brain to counteract the spine’s abnormal curvature.
The key is to use involuntary exercises — movements the body makes automatically in response to certain stimuli. For example, the ScoliSMART Activity Suit places small amounts of weight on the head, torso, and pelvis that trick the brain into perceiving a different balancing point for that part of your child’s body. The brain sends out an automatic response to re-balance the body, which in turn causes the entire spine to realign.
Learn more about scoliosis exercises for long-term treatment.