Scoliosis: The best stretches and exercises (2022)

Scoliosis causes the spine to curve sideways, causing pain, weakness, and changes in how a person walks. Exercise and stretching are vital components of treatment.

This article looks at what scoliosis is and looks at some stretches and exercises that may help.

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Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve sideways.

In a person with scoliosis, the spine curves to one side. The rib cage may also twist to the same side.

Scoliosis impacts an estimated 6–9 million people in the United States.

Anyone can get scoliosis, but it is more common in children older than 11 years of age.

Symptoms

Typical symptoms of scoliosis in children and teens may include:

  • uneven shoulders
  • one hip appearing higher than the other
  • one shoulder blade is more prominent than the other
  • when bending forward, one side of the rib cage is higher than the other
  • in severe scoliosis, there may be back pain

Causes

There are three types of scoliosis: idiopathic, congenital, and neuromuscular.

Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type, accounting for about 80% of all cases. While the cause of idiopathic scoliosis is unknown, there are known risk factors, such as sex and age.

Congenital scoliosis is when an injury or abnormality is present during pregnancy or birth.

Muscle spasms or tightness can cause neuromuscular scoliosis. Neuromuscular disorders, such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, can also cause it.

Risk factors

Most cases of scoliosis are idiopathic, meaning they appear to have no specific cause.

However, medical experts have noticed some trends. Risk factors of scoliosis include:

  • Age: Scoliosis is more common in children approaching adolescence.
  • Sex: People assigned female at birth are more likely to develop scoliosis. However, under 3 years of age, males are more likely to develop it.
  • Genetic factors: Sometimes, scoliosis runs in families.
  • Neuromuscular conditions: Conditions, such as cerebral palsy, can misalign vertebrae.

Can stretches help scoliosis?

(Video) 10 Best Scoliosis Stretches - Ask Doctor Jo

In mild cases, people treating their scoliosis with specific exercises and stretches can prevent the need for surgery.

However, a person with scoliosis should speak with a doctor or physical therapist before doing stretches and exercises for scoliosis. They may be able to suggest personalized exercises to try.

The correct scoliosis exercises depend on the location of a person’s scoliosis curve.

People with lumbar scoliosis should focus on exercising their lower back. In contrast, those with thoracic scoliosis should focus more on exercising their thoracic spine and upper back.

Doctors may recommend the following exercises and stretches for people with scoliosis.

A pelvic tilt will help stretch tight muscles in the hips and lower back.

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To do a pelvic tilt, a person should:

  1. Lie on their back with their feet flat on the floor and their knees bent.
  2. Tighten their stomach muscles while flattening their back toward the floor.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds while breathing normally.
  4. Release.
  5. Do 2 sets of 10.

A person can strengthen their lower back with arm and leg raises.

(Video) Scoliosis Workout - The Best Scoliosis Exercises for Pain and Posture

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To do the raises, a person should:

  1. Lie on their front with their forehead to the ground.
  2. Extend their arms straight over their head with their palms or fists on the ground. Keep both legs straight.
  3. Raise their arms and legs off of the ground.
  4. Hold for a full breath, then lower their arms and legs back down.
  5. Aim for 15 repetitions.

The Cat-Cow is a yoga pose, and it can help keep the spine flexible and pain-free.

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To do the Cat-Cow pose, a person should:

  1. Begin on their hands and knees, ensuring their back is level and their head and neck are comfortable.
  2. Inhale deeply while drawing their abdominal muscles in and up, arching their back.
  3. Exhale while releasing their abdominal muscles, dropping their back, letting their belly fall, and lifting their head toward the ceiling.
  4. Do 2 sets of 10.

The bird-dog is another yoga-inspired exercise.

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To do this exercise, a person should:

  1. Begin on their hands and knees with a straight back.
  2. Place their hands directly under their shoulders and their knees under their hips.
  3. Extend one arm straight out and forward while extending the opposite leg straight back.
  4. Breathe normally and hold for 5 seconds.
  5. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
  6. Do 10–15 repetitions on each side.

This stretch focuses on the latissimus dorsi — the largest muscle in the upper body.

Thoracic scoliosis directly affects these muscles. Lumbar scoliosis can also cause tightness in the latissimus dorsi.

(Video) Scoliosis Exercises - Exercises to Improve Scoliosis

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To do a latissimus dorsi stretch, a person should:

  1. Stand with good posture in a neutral position.
  2. Keep their feet shoulder-width apart and their knees very slightly bent.
  3. Reaching over their head with both hands, grab the right wrist with the left hand.
  4. Bend slightly toward the right side until they feel a stretch in the left side of their body.
  5. Hold for one to two breaths, then gently pull with the left hand to straighten and return to the original position.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side.
  7. Do 5–10 repetitions on each side.

Strong abdominal muscles can help take some pressure off of the back muscles and promote good posture.

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To do an abdominal press, a person should:

  1. Lie on their back with their feet flat on the ground, and their knees bent.
  2. Keep the back in a neutral, tension-free position.
  3. Raise both feet off of the floor until their thighs and feet form a 90-degree angle, and their knees are above the hips.
  4. Use their hands to push their knees away while simultaneously pulling the knees toward their hands with their abdominal muscles. This is a static exercise, meaning the legs and arms should not move when pressing.
  5. Hold for three full breaths and then relax.
  6. Do 2 sets of 10.

Good posture can reduce pain and muscle tension. Several times a day, a person can realign their body to help them learn to stand with a good posture naturally.

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To have a good posture when standing, a person should:

  • Drop their shoulders down and back.
  • Position the ears over the shoulders.
  • Slightly tuck their chin in, so it is not jutting forward or too far down.
  • Draw the stomach in slightly.
  • Unlock, or bend the knees slightly.

When sitting, keep the back straight and the ears over the shoulders. A person should keep their legs in a neutral position and not crossed.

It can help to scan the body for signs of tension. For example, some people unconsciously tense their shoulders or lean slightly to one side, especially when in pain or under stress.

Targeted exercise programs

(Video) SCOLIOSIS back pain RELIEF! | Best exercises for scoliosis spine

Doctors and researchers have developed several targeted scoliosis programs.

For example, the Scientific Exercises Approach to Scoliosis (SEAS) is an individualized program that trains a person to correct movement issues and change their spinal position.

The Schroth method is another type of physical therapy for people with scoliosis. It focuses on corrective exercises and breathing techniques.

A 2021 study found that Schroth exercises improved spinal mobility and the quality of life in people with mild adolescent idiopathic scoliosis.

The most suitable exercise program depends on the type and degree of a person’s scoliosis. A person should consult a doctor and a physical therapist to determine which exercises suit their specific needs.

If a doctor recommends a specific exercise program, a person should ask if it is safe to do other home exercises alongside the program.

Some activities and exercises can worsen scoliosis symptoms or increase the risk of secondary injuries. People with scoliosis should avoid:

  • Keeping their neck bent forward with their head facing downward, such as when using a smartphone.
  • Playing football and other high-contact sports. They can be dangerous for people with scoliosis.
  • Repeatedly extending the torso, which can occur in some yoga positions, ballet steps, and gymnastic maneuvers.
  • Exposing the spine to repeated impacts from jumping or running. Common culprits include trampolines, horseback riding, and long-distance running on hard surfaces.

In addition to exercise, a range of home management solutions may help. These include:

  • Bracing: Bracing may prevent a spinal curve from worsening, reduce pain, and improve mobility. The right bracing strategy depends on a person’s scoliosis type, so talk with a doctor before trying a brace.
  • Choosing the right furniture: An ergonomic chair or mattress may better support the spine and back, reducing pain.
  • Massage: Some people find that massage helps with scoliosis pain.
  • Chiropractic treatment: Visiting a chiropractor who specializes in scoliosis can help relieve discomfort and pain. Although this will not cure scoliosis, it may greatly improve the quality of life for a person with the condition.

Scoliosis ranges from mild to severe. Sometimes, observation and home exercises are sufficient to correct a spinal curve.

In more severe cases, a person may need additional treatment, including bracing, surgery, or physical therapy.

(Video) 3 Scoliosis Exercises At Home - Ask Dr. Abelson

Because scoliosis can affect a person’s mobility and overall well-being, it is vital to see a scoliosis expert before deciding on a course of treatment.

Read the article in Spanish.

FAQs

Which exercise is used to correct scoliosis? ›

Schroth Exercises for Scoliosis at CHOC

The Schroth Method is a low-impact form of physical therapy, with exercises designed to stop curve progression and improve quality of life. In some cases, it can even prevent the need for spine surgery.

How do you straighten scoliosis naturally? ›

Pelvic tilt
  1. Lie on your back. Bend your knees so both feet are flat on the surface with toes pointed forward.
  2. Pull your belly button in so your pelvis pushes toward the ceiling and your back flattens against the ground.
  3. Hold this position for 20 seconds, and then relax. Try to do this exercise 10 times.

What muscles are tight in scoliosis? ›

Piriformis Stretch

In typical forms of scoliosis, the abnormal curvature will bend to the right, away from the heart, and in cases of scoliosis that produce an over-pronounced 'S' shape, the lower curve will bend to the left, and this can lead to excessive tightness in the right side of the piriformis muscle.

Is walking good for scoliosis? ›

Running and walking are also great for scoliosis patients, as is hiking. Sprinting (Usain Bolt's specialty) is probably better for the spine than long-distance running. Cross-country skiing is also a wonderful physical activity for adolescents with scoliosis.

What helps scoliosis pain at home? ›

How is scoliosis pain treated?
  1. hydrotherapy and massage.
  2. exercise that strengthens your stomach and back muscles, such as Pilates, yoga, swimming, and stretching, which can also help relieve back pain.
  3. certain types of braces to support the spine.

Can Massage Help scoliosis? ›

Commonly associated with relieving back pain, a deep tissue massage also works for those suffering from scoliosis. Combined with stretching and neuromuscular therapy, this deep massage can reduce back pain by increasing the blood flow to the back, which in turn elongates tightened muscles.

What are the 4 types of scoliosis? ›

There are four types of scoliosis: congenital, idiopathic, neuromuscular, and degenerative2. In congenital scoliosis, the misalignment occurs as a result of deformed vertebrae or ribs present at birth.

What can worsen scoliosis? ›

Repeated extension of your thoracic spine with backbends, gymnastics, high jumps, dance maneuvers (especially in ballet) and certain yoga positions causes vertebrae to rotate further into the scoliosis curve. The force often causes rapid scoliosis progression.

What vitamins should I take for scoliosis? ›

Your doctor may recommend taking vitamin D3 to improve bone density, magnesium to boost spinal health, and fish oil supplements for their anti-inflammatory properties. Even if you eat a healthy diet, it doesn't hurt to take these supplements on your doctor's recommendation to help reduce scoliosis pain.

Can I fix scoliosis on my own? ›

While scoliosis can be reduced and managed to the point where it causes very few, if any, functional deficits, as a progressive and incurable condition, scoliosis cannot be cured.

When does scoliosis stop progressing? ›

In most cases of idiopathic scoliosis, the curve develops around the time the patient hits puberty, then continues to progress throughout their adolescence until their spine has finished growing (usually at age 16-18).

How can scoliosis affect legs? ›

Nerve compression

In some cases of scoliosis, particularly those affecting adults, the bones in the spine compress nearby nerves. In severe cases, this can cause problems such as: back and leg pain. numbness or weakness in the legs.

How do you prevent scoliosis from getting worse? ›

Preventing Further Scoliosis Progression ​
  1. Exercise. Proper exercise is crucial to prevent the progression of scoliosis. ...
  2. Healthier Diet. Both children and adults should maintain a healthy diet to avoid the progression of their scoliosis. ...
  3. Bracing. ...
  4. Surgery.

How do people live with scoliosis? ›

Exercise is important because it strengthens the body's core and promotes flexibility. Some exercises to consider include yoga, pilates, and swimming. Each of these is a non-jarring exercise that includes stretching and deep breathing. More assertive activities such as mountain biking and running can be helpful too.

What organs are affected by scoliosis? ›

Scoliosis affects the entire skeletal system including the spine, ribs, and pelvis. It impacts upon the brain and central nervous system and affects the body's hormonal and digestive systems. It can deplete the body's nutritional resources and damage its major organs including the heart and lungs.

Is scoliosis a disability? ›

This sideways curvature of the spine can have many side effects and health problems. So, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offers benefits for scoliosis disorder. If you are wondering whether scoliosis is a disability, the answer is YES! It is a disability, and you can get disability benefits for it.

How can I stop scoliosis pain? ›

Painkillers. Painkilling tablets may help relieve the pain that can be associated with scoliosis. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, are usually the first treatment recommended. These are available to buy from pharmacies and supermarkets without a prescription.

What is the fastest way to cure scoliosis? ›

Put simply, the fastest way to treat scoliosis is Active bracing – with a brace like ScoliBrace. Scoliosis specific exercise will reduce scoliosis over time, but only at a much slower rate.

Why is scoliosis so painful? ›

Causes of pain

The curve of the spine can irritate, squash, or stretch the nerves. It can also put a strain on joints, which become worn or inflamed. Joints are the places in the body where two bones meet. Scoliosis can also affect posture, which can lead to the muscles becoming tight or tired, causing pain.

Does scoliosis make you tired? ›

The more pronounced the curves become, the harder the surrounding muscles have to work to keep the body aligned and balanced. This causes them to wear out more easily. Additionally, severe scoliosis can put pressure on the chest cavity, eventually restricting the ability to breathe, which can cause chronic fatigue.

Can a chiropractor correct scoliosis? ›

A chiropractor for scoliosis can develop a non-invasive, drug-free scoliosis treatment plan that addresses multiple symptoms. While chiropractors are unable to straighten your spine completely, studies have shown a marked improvement in spine curvature, pain, and disability rating among those with scoliosis.

Is chiropractic care good for scoliosis? ›

Many adults with scoliosis find non-drug, non-invasive chiropractic treatments can help reduce their pain by decreasing the pressure on their nervous system and strengthening their body's core. Procedures and ideas to stay active without increasing the symptoms.

Which yoga is best for scoliosis? ›

Yoga poses to help scoliosis
  • Cat/cow pose: Focuses your breathing and loosens your spine.
  • Downward-facing dog: Lengthens the group of muscles that run the length of your spine.
  • Mountain pose: Can improve your balance and strengthen your core.
  • Tree pose: Stretches and lengthens your spine, which can improve your posture.
30 Sept 2021

How does scoliosis affect the heart? ›

A severely curved spine can distort the rib cage, and a severely distorted rib cage can leave the heart and lungs with too little room to beat / inflate. Thus, heart failure is a possible outcome of severe progressive scoliosis – but again, it's important to bear in mind that is an extremely rare occurrence.

What kind of doctor treats scoliosis in adults? ›

After your scoliosis diagnosis, you'll be referred to an orthopedic doctor, who will work with you to determine the best way to treat your curved spine. How your condition is managed depends on your age, the type of scoliosis you have, the measurement of your back's curve, and your other medical conditions.

What is the rarest type of scoliosis? ›

Congenital scoliosis is rare, affecting only 1 in 10,000 newborns. It results from spinal abnormalities that develop in the womb. Before birth, malformation of the spine is the most common cause of this type of scoliosis.

Does cold weather affect scoliosis? ›

As the air exerts less force on the body, tissues can expand, putting extra pressure on damaged joints. Even the smallest changes in barometric pressure can trigger joint pain, allowing people with scoliosis or other joint problems to sense when a winter storm is on the way.

What triggers scoliosis? ›

Doctors don't know what causes the most common type of scoliosis — although it appears to involve hereditary factors, because the disorder sometimes runs in families. Less common types of scoliosis may be caused by: Certain neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.

Why do I have scoliosis? ›

In around 8 in every 10 cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. This is called idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis cannot be prevented and is not thought to be linked to things such as bad posture, exercise or diet. Your genes may make you more likely to get it though, as it sometimes runs in families.

Can scoliosis affect your bladder? ›

Scoliosis and Potential Urinary Problems

As the nerves in the sacral spine receive/send messages from the brain that the bladder is full or empty, if these nerves are subject to compression caused by the abnormal spinal curvature in the lower spine, this may lead to bladder issues such as urinary incontinence.

How can I improve my scoliosis without surgery? ›

"The appropriate treatment depends on the magnitude of the curve, the location of the curve in the spine and the child's developmental stage of maturity in their bones." Nonsurgical treatments for scoliosis include observation, physical therapy, the Schroth method, bracing and Mehta casting.

Does scoliosis cause digestive problems? ›

Additional digestive issues that can be caused by scoliosis are acid reflux, heartburn, stomach pains, constipation, and IBS. The best approach to handling scoliosis-related symptoms, such as digestive issues, is to manage the condition's progression through a proactive scoliosis-specific chiropractic approach.

Does coffee affect scoliosis? ›

Dietary tips for people with scoliosis:

Avoid sugary drinks and soda – they inhibit the body's ability to absorb calcium. Don't drink excessive amounts of alcohol – drinking too much alcohol can lead to reduced bone mass. Don't drink too much caffeine – excessive caffeine can cause your bones to lose calcium.

Does scoliosis cause weight gain? ›

Also, multiple factors such as age, overall health, and the chosen treatment approach also play significant roles in how the condition affects a person's daily life. Does scoliosis itself directly cause my patients to gain or lose significant amounts of weight: no.

What are the 3 types of scoliosis? ›

Scoliosis can be classified by etiology: idiopathic, congenital or neuromuscular. Idiopathic scoliosis is the diagnosis when all other causes are excluded and comprises about 80 percent of all cases. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of scoliosis and is usually diagnosed during puberty.

Can you reverse scoliosis? ›

Happily, the answer is yes – given the right type of treatment, scoliosis can be reversed. Surgery is one option; if you choose to undergo spinal fusion surgery, your surgeon will straighten your spine using a series of rods before performing a bone graft to hold the spine in place.

Can scoliosis be corrected with physical therapy? ›

Physical therapy is effective in treating scoliosis. Physical therapy is the most common treatment for scoliosis thanks to its efficacy. Therapists continue to develop new methods in successfully fostering a healthy spine in patients with this condition.

Can scoliosis be fixed by a chiropractor? ›

A chiropractor for scoliosis can develop a non-invasive, drug-free scoliosis treatment plan that addresses multiple symptoms. While chiropractors are unable to straighten your spine completely, studies have shown a marked improvement in spine curvature, pain, and disability rating among those with scoliosis.

How do I stretch my back with scoliosis? ›

A pelvic tilt will help stretch tight muscles in the hips and lower back.
...
1. Pelvic tilts
  1. Lie on their back with their feet flat on the floor and their knees bent.
  2. Tighten their stomach muscles while flattening their back toward the floor.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds while breathing normally.
  4. Release.
  5. Do 2 sets of 10.

What can worsen scoliosis? ›

Repeated extension of your thoracic spine with backbends, gymnastics, high jumps, dance maneuvers (especially in ballet) and certain yoga positions causes vertebrae to rotate further into the scoliosis curve. The force often causes rapid scoliosis progression.

What can you not do with scoliosis? ›

In general, scoliosis don'ts would include activities that increase compression, adverse spinal tension, place the spine in unnatural positions, exacerbate muscle imbalance, and increase the risk of spinal injury; scoliosis do's would include staying active, increasing core strength so there's less pressure on the ...

When does scoliosis stop progressing? ›

In most cases of idiopathic scoliosis, the curve develops around the time the patient hits puberty, then continues to progress throughout their adolescence until their spine has finished growing (usually at age 16-18).

What helps scoliosis pain at home? ›

How is scoliosis pain treated?
  1. hydrotherapy and massage.
  2. exercise that strengthens your stomach and back muscles, such as Pilates, yoga, swimming, and stretching, which can also help relieve back pain.
  3. certain types of braces to support the spine.

What kind of doctor treats scoliosis in adults? ›

After your scoliosis diagnosis, you'll be referred to an orthopedic doctor, who will work with you to determine the best way to treat your curved spine. How your condition is managed depends on your age, the type of scoliosis you have, the measurement of your back's curve, and your other medical conditions.

Can scoliosis make you tired? ›

The more pronounced the curves become, the harder the surrounding muscles have to work to keep the body aligned and balanced. This causes them to wear out more easily. Additionally, severe scoliosis can put pressure on the chest cavity, eventually restricting the ability to breathe, which can cause chronic fatigue.

What jobs can I do with scoliosis? ›

Need inspiration? Here are 8 jobs for people with scoliosis, ankylosing spondylitis and other spinal disorders:
  • Teacher.
  • Self-employed. ...
  • Exercise instructor. ...
  • Sales agent. ...
  • Reseller. ...
  • Mindfulness coach. ...
  • Administrative assistant. ...
  • Project manager.
8 Oct 2020

Videos

1. Yoga For Scoliosis | Yoga With Adriene
(Yoga With Adriene)
2. 10 Best Scoliosis Exercises - Ask Doctor Jo
(AskDoctorJo)
3. 10 Min Easy Standing Stretches for Scoliosis ♥ Daily Exercise (Upper Body)
(Georgina Sasha)
4. How to Correct a Scoliosis With Exercise and Stretching | Edward Paget
(Ed Paget)
5. The Best Stretching Exercise for Scoliosis – Treatment by Dr.Berg
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)
6. THE Best Exercises For Scoliosis
(Body Fix Exercises)

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