Last updated on January 17th, 2022 at 12:54 am
Maintaining a good posture for scoliosis is a critical aspect of a successful lifelong treatment strategy. The best exercises for scoliosis are low impact, focus on core strengthening exercises for scoliosis, and exercises to relieve scoliosis pain. While scoliosis exercises to straighten the spine are generally unique to the ScoliSMART approach for adolescent patients, exercises for adult scoliosis can significantly improve quality of life. This article includes information on Yoga for scoliosis, stretches that relieve scoliosis pain, and core exercises for scoliosis.
Yoga Poses & Scoliosis Exercises
When seeking relief from scoliosis pain, many of today’s patients turn to yoga.
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Although this ancient practice doesn’t make any significant impact on the progression of spinal curves, the strengthening and structural alignment developed through yoga poses (known as asanas) can reduce pain and help patients live more comfortable lives.
“I find that asana alleviates pain in nooks that would otherwise hold it,” said one scoliosis patient. “And when I’m not practicing, I feel the pain return to certain parts of my back that feel pressure.”
But yoga and scoliosis don’t necessarily go hand in hand. While many poses are perfectly safe for scoliotic spines — and some even provide proven benefits — many others can make the curves worse. To safely perform yoga for scoliosis relief, it’s important to differentiate between asanas that can help and those that pose a risk. Scoliosis is a lifelong journey. Get tips for living your best life sent directly to your inbox.
Recommended Yoga Poses for Scoliosis
Yoga offers several easy poses for beginners that can help those with scoliosis find their center, strengthen their core muscles, decrease their pain, and focus on their breath. When practiced regularly, they can help improve patients’ quality of life. Note: These poses are generally safe scoliosis exercises in seniors.
Mountain pose: This yoga pose requires a tall and steady stance, which helps develop balance and core strength.
Tree pose: Also a standing pose, this stance offers additional balance and core strengthening while also helping with posture for scoliosis patients.
Cat pose: This kneeling pose opens space between vertebrae in the spine and stretches the supporting muscles and tendons, which can help loosen up the back.
Advanced Yoga Poses for Scoliosis –
1. Double leg abdominal press:
2. Single leg balance:
5. Latissimus dorsi stretch:
6. Step down and one-arm reach:
7. Split stance with arm reach:
Yoga Poses to Avoid with Scoliosis –
While the right scoliosis exercises can help alleviate secondary effects such as pain, the wrong ones can actually make the condition worse.
Physical therapist Christa Lehnert-Schroth has seen many scoliosis patients damaged from performing improper exercises. “In some cases, our patients had performed bad exercises for years before coming to our clinic, and their condition was far worse – and more difficult and time-consuming to correct – than if they had done no exercises at all,” she said.
When practicing yoga for scoliosis, avoid the following poses, which can have detrimental effects:
Much common yoga poses hyperextend the middle back, including cobra, half-moon, locust, and sun salutation. These can actually increase the spinal curves in scoliosis patients.
Twisting the torso:
The spinal twist pose should never be used when performing yoga exercises for scoliosis. When the shoulders and rib cage are twisted against the pelvic girdle, the motion can exacerbate the contortions present in a scoliotic spine.
Bending the rib cage: Bending the rib cage forward, sideways, or backward can also cause the curves to worsen in patients with scoliosis. Yoga poses such as the side bend, triangle, seated twist, and sage twist fall into this category.
Shoulder stand: This stance bends the head sharply forward, overextending the neck muscles, while the pressure exerted on the shoulders can drastically increase a rib hump formation. When selecting yoga exercises for scoliosis, leave this one out.
While yoga can help scoliosis patients manage their pain, it’s no substitute for exercises specifically developed for treating spinal curvature. Therapeutic scoliosis exercises can actually reduce the severity of curves by retraining the body to correct its own posture. The right scoliosis exercises can help patients avoid invasive treatments such as bracing or surgery.
10 Stretches to Help Alleviate Scoliosis Pain
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.
Recent research has found that genetic testing and subsequent nutrient therapies can significantly reduce pain associated with the scoliosis condition, and prevent further curve progression. Nutrient therapy, combined with appropriate stretching, will make a difference. Get ideas for “do-it-yourself” pain relief at home, direct to your email.
But keep in mind that scoliosis back stretches can work counter-intuitively.
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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 spine already bends, on the other hand, can cause the elongated muscles to pull back and shorten a bit, which helps balance out your posture.
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.
1. Chest Stretch –
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms in front of your chest
- Pull your arms backward and press your shoulder blades together, stretching the chest
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
3. Back Stretch
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
4. Child’s Pose
- 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
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)
6. Rag Doll
- 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
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
8. Hip Stretch
- 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
9. Cat Stretch
- 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
10. Overhead Stretch
- 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
Best Core Strengthening and Workout Exercises You Can Try At Home For Scoliosis
Exercises to help scoliosis
You don’t have to be a fitness professional to take advantage of increased core muscle strength. Your core strength determines your body’s ability to control and support your spine curvature. It is 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.
Core-strengthening exercises will not reduce the size of the curve in adult patients. But, they do play an important role in helping prevent progression. They can also help reduce back pain caused by scoliosis. These exercises should be for improving and maintaining the quality of life. Used in conjunction with a “scoliosis specific” rehabilitation program from a scoliosis specialist. Get recommendations for living your best life with scoliosis.
New research also suggests the importance of genetic testing to identify genetic variants that contribute to your scoliosis condition.
Many of the core-strengthening exercises recommended for scoliosis patients are 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 walk your fingers up the wall. As you extend your arms over your head, come up on your tiptoes. Once your arms are extended, with a straight line from hands to heels, walk your fingers back down. Repeat, keeping abs and lower back muscles engaged.
2. Pelvic tilts
Lie face-up on the floor with knees bent, feet flat, and arms at your sides. Tighten your belly and buttocks to 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 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.
5. Back extensions
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).
6. 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.
9. 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 scoliosis treatment program.
Helpful Tools for Adult Scoliosis Exercises
ScoliSMART Activity Suit (SAS): What if you could turn every movement you make into an effective treatment for scoliosis? If you are walking, it is working! That’s what the ScoliSMART Activity Suit does. Wearing it during your workout (and even when you’re going about your daily activities) 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.
Many times exercise for scoliosis seems harder—especially with scoliosis 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 the pain. To gauge by that.”
Having the right equipment available can help. 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 people with scoliosis.
- Stability ball: Specific exercises performed on a stability ball are helpful in strengthening the back and abdominal muscles. The ball provides balance and support for your spine while you work out. This is particularly helpful for mild scoliosis and should not be used with scoliosis bracing.
- 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. Make sure to promote correct posture at all times and the body remains in a neutral position.
- Wedges: Exercising with training wedges can provide extra support where you need it, especially if your form of scoliosis has many spinal curvatures. Depending on the type of scoliosis this can be very helpful in the thoracic spine or upper body spine curves.
- Foam roller: A foam roller is helpful for improving balance while you perform core-strengthening exercises. This should not be used with a scoliosis brace.
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.
Clinical studies have proven ScoliSMART’s scoliosis exercise program effective at stopping scoliosis progression and reducing spinal curvature, all without the trauma and risks of bracing or surgery.
Treatment Solutions for All Ages
Pain and limited flexibility do not have to stop you from living your best life with scoliosis. Clinical testing, appropriate nutrient therapies, and a dynamic exercise and rehabilitation program will prevent pain and limit curve progression.
Don’t know where to start? Take our FREE “ScoliQuiz.” (No x-ray required)