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Exercises for Scoliosis Patients

hamstring stretching

Story at-a-glance -

  • Patients with mild scoliosis are most responsive to exercise treatment. These refer to people who don’t require significant medical attention, have spine curvatures measuring less than 20 degrees and the scoliosis isn’t as visible to the eye
  • While patients with moderate scoliosis can exercise too, they would likely need to wear a medically prescribed brace

Because of intense body pain, some scoliosis patients avoid exercise. However, they may be missing out on a golden opportunity, as there are some recommended exercises for scoliosis sufferers to help reduce the pain and allow them to maintain a healthy weight, alleviating the strain on their back.1

What to Do Before Exercising

Scoliosis patients who want to exercise must talk to their physician or doctor to determine if their physical state would allow them to work out. Patients can also consult a physical therapist or physiotherapist who may suggest more specific back exercises.2 Although these exercises may not improve the curvature of the spine, it can help address the pain.3

Patients with mild scoliosis are most responsive to exercise treatment. These refer to people who don’t require significant medical attention, have spine curvatures measuring less than 20 degrees and the scoliosis isn’t as visible to the eye.

Sadly, not all patients can benefit from exercising. While patients with moderate scoliosis can exercise too, they would likely need to wear a medically prescribed brace. For patients with severe scoliosis, the curvature may already need to be corrected with spinal surgery.4

Ideal Stretching Exercises for Scoliosis Patients

A rule of thumb when exercising is to keep your back moving and make sure you choose a routine that you enjoy and are likely to be able to stick with for a long period of time.5

It's important for scoliosis patients to practice stretches either at home or in the gym to assist with temporarily relieving back pain. Start stretching for a few times a week. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat for two to three times. Once the stretches become more comfortable, you can gradually increase the amount of time you spend in each stretch. Here are some stretching exercises you can try:6,7

Chest Stretch: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and put your arms in front of your chest. Pull your arms backward and press your shoulder blades together, stretching the chest.

Right-Angle Wall Stretch: Place hands on a wall at shoulder level, shoulder-width apart. Walk your feet back until they’re directly under your hips.

Push your palms into the wall, lengthening your spine. Keep your lower back tucked in and arms straight.

Back Stretch: Stand with your arms extended in front of your chest. Lace your fingers and push them away from your chest until you feel a stretch in your upper back. Hold there.

Up and Down Dog: In a prone plank position with your arms straight out, push your hips back as far as possible.

Hold for two seconds then lower your hips towards the floor, as low as possible without discomfort.

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.

Lower Back Stretch: Lie on your stomach with your legs and arms extended straight out. Raise your left arm and right leg towards the ceiling and hold for five to 10 seconds. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

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.

Hamstring Stretch (Seated): Begin in a seated or a wall stretch. A seated stretch means that you are seated in a firm chair.

Extend one leg and reach down slowly to touch your toe. Change legs and stretch the other side.

Hamstring Stretch (Wall): Start by lying on your back with your buttocks up against a wall or high-back chair. Place the foot against the wall or chair and make the knee as straight as you can.

As you progress, you’ll be able to get closer to your toes in the seated position or your knee straighter while on the floor.

Gluteal Stretch:8 Stretch and relax the gluteal muscles by lying on your back with both knees bent and your lower back flattened to the floor.

Draw one knee to your chest, while you keep the other foot on the floor. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat with your other leg. Try to stretch both legs twice, once daily.

Quadriceps Stretch:9 Standing next to a chair, bed or table, extend your right leg behind you. Hold on to a chair for stability and prevent falling.

Keeping your body upright, align your left hip over your left heel, maintaining the left hip and foot in a forward position.

Tighten the glutes and imagine your right leg extending through your right hip. You should feel light tension in both your hip and quads. Repeat on the other leg.

Hip Flexor Stretch:10,11 Begin by kneeling on the floor. Holding onto a chair or other solid object, place one leg behind you and lean in slightly into the chair.

Then, lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor hip width apart, flatten your back to the floor and exhale while raising the hips off the floor.

Tighten your glutes when you reach the top. Inhale and return to the starting position.

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These Techniques May Also Benefit Scoliosis Patients

There are other workout techniques that can be suggested for scoliosis patients. Just as with stretches, patients should consult their doctor or physician first before doing these, or talk to a physical therapist so they can practice proper form and perform the exercise correctly:

Planking: Strong abdominal and back muscles can help protect the lower back and improve the patient’s ability to stand and sit with correct postures. Begin by lying on your stomach. Rise up on the elbows and hold directly below your shoulders. Pull your body up on your toes and hold a position similar to doing a push-up, except you are on your elbows. Work up to holding the plank for three minutes.

Diaphragmatic Breathing:12 This breathing technique can help stabilize the back and naturally add traction to the spine. Lie on your back with your heels on a chair, and align your position so there’s a 90-degree angle at your hips and knees. However, this might require the patient to experiment with various chairs to find the chair with the right height. Afterwards, place a pillow on your legs.

Without using your lower back, activate your glutes and your abdominal muscles to raise your buttocks off the floor just a few inches. While in this bridge position, inhale deeply through the nose, making sure you feel your lower ribs rotate outward to fill your lungs. Exhale completely using your core muscles to internally rotate your ribs. Inhale for a count of five, exhale for a count of seven and pause for a count of three. Do this step five times while maintaining the bridge position, and then rest. Repeat for one more time.

Foam Rolling Hamstrings and Quadriceps: By foam rolling the hamstring and quadriceps muscles, you can help muscles relax, deliver a deep tissue massage and speed up healing. Use a foam roller one to three times daily for the hamstrings and quadriceps, after doing strengthening and stretching exercises.


Scoliosis: Introduction

What is Scoliosis?

Types of Scoliosis

Severe Scoliosis

Scoliosis Symptoms

Dealing with Scoliosis-Related Pain

Scoliosis Causes

Scoliosis Side Effects

Scoliosis Treatment

Scoliosis Back Braces

Yoga for Scoliosis

Exercises for Scoliosis Patients

Scoliosis Surgeries

Scoliosis Prevention

Diet for Scoliosis Patients

Scoliosis FAQ

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