Diana Chaloux was determined not to let her childhood scoliosis stop her from becoming a fitness model. But when she started competing nationally, her spinal curve put her at a serious disadvantage.
Body symmetry is a key category in bodybuilding and figure competitions and a “major element to being successful at the sport,” she says. To compensate for her postural deviation, she began incorporating core-strengthening exercises into her routine. Building up her core through adult scoliosis exercises helped balance out her posture while supporting the rest of her training program.
You don’t have to be a fitness professional to benefit from increased core muscle strength. Your core strength determines your body’s ability to dynamically control and support your spine, which makes it an essential part of any effective treatment for adult scoliosis. When your core becomes stronger, your lower back and abdominal muscles become better able to balance and stabilize your posture.
Although core-strengthening exercises will not reduce the size of the curve in adult patients, they do play an important role in helping prevent progression. They can also help reduce back pain caused by scoliosis. These exercises should be done primarily for improving and maintaining quality of life in conjunction with a “scoliosis specific” rehab program, like ScoliSMART.
Helpful Tools for Adult Scoliosis Exercises
Scoliosis can make exercising seem harder—especially when you’re in pain. The important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t do anything that feels bad.
“Listen to your body,” says fitness trainer Carol Ann. “You do want to feel like your muscles are working, but you don’t want to work through pain. So just gauge that.”
Having the right equipment available can help by supporting your spine’s weak areas and in some cases even enhancing the effectiveness of your exercises. Below are a few devices that are especially helpful for adults with scoliosis.
- Stability ball: Specific exercises performed on a stability ball are immensely helpful in strengthening the back and abdominal muscles. The ball provides balance and support for your spine while you work out.
- BOSU Balance Trainer: Exercising while standing on this dome-shaped device adds an element of instability to your workout, engaging the muscles responsible for stabilizing and balancing the spine.
- Wedges: Exercising with training wedges can provide extra support where you need it, especially if your spine has multiple curves.
- Foam roller: A foam roller is helpful for improving balance while you perform core-strengthening exercise.
- ScoliSMART Activity Suit: What if you could turn every movement you make into an effective treatment for scoliosis? That’s what the ScoliSMART Activity Suit does. By wearing it during your workout (and even when you’re just going about your daily activities, you can help retrain your body to automatically correct your posture. It provides active resistance while you move to help retrain your brain and muscles to reduce spinal curves.
Core-Strengthening Exercises for Scoliosis Patients
Many of the core-strengthening exercises recommended for scoliosis patients are drawn from Pilates, a system of exercises designed for building strength and improving posture. In one study, women who completed nine months of Pilates training built up their abdominal strength by as much as 20 percent while reducing their existing muscular imbalances.
Below are some adult scoliosis exercises you can do at home to help strengthen your core:
Stand facing the wall with your feet together. Lean forward and place your hands on the wall at chest height. Tighten your abs and slowly walk your fingers up the wall. As you extend your arms over your head, come up on your tiptoes. Once your arms are fully extended, with a straight line from hands to hells, walk your fingers back down. Repeat, keeping abs and lower back muscles engaged.
Lie face-up on the floor with knees bent, feet flat and arms at your sides. Tighten your belly and buttocks to slowly curl your pelvic bone inward, feeling your lower back flatten out against the floor. Hold for five seconds, breathing normally, before releasing. Repeat.
Get on your hands and knees, with your abs tight and head straight. Take a deep breath in and lift your lower rib cage, rounding out your back and relaxing your neck. Breathe out, lowering your chest toward the floor and looking slightly upward. Return to the beginning position, with your abs tight, and repeat.
Lie with the small of your back on a stability ball and your feet on the floor. Place your fingertips behind your head, keeping your elbows wide. Sit up, making sure your abdominal muscles are engaged, then lie back.
Lie with your stomach and quads on a stability ball and your feet braced against the wall. Place your fingertips behind your ears. Lower your torso into the ball, then lift up (as if performing reverse crunches).
Leg and arm extension
Lie across the stability ball on your belly and place your hands and toes on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Contract your abs and lower back muscles while you steadily raise your right arm and left leg until parallel to the floor. Slowly lower and repeat on the other side.
Stand on a BOSU Balance Trainer and find your balance. Extend your arms in front of you and sit back and down like you’re easing into an imaginary chair. Lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor, with your knees over your ankles. Keep your body tight and push through your heels to return to the starting position.
Lie on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you, palms down. Lift both feet and arms. Hold, then release.
Foam roller balancing
Lie longwise on a foam roller with your tail on one end, head on the other and feet about hip-width apart. Lift one knee so your calf is parallel to the floor while lifting the opposite arm so straight up so your fingers are pointing at the ceiling. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
These adult scoliosis exercises can help build your core strength, improve your balance and posture, and support your overall scoliosis treatment program.