Scoliosis Do's and Don'ts
FACTUALLY ACCURATE & VERIFIED BY
Dr. Brian T. Dovorany
LAST UPDATED ON
January 28 , 2023
Chronic pain and limited function are two common signs of scoliosis in adults. You may have chronic back, neck, or hip pain and not realize it’s caused by degenerative scoliosis. It turns out that patients with adult scoliosis are much more prevalent than we thought.
Activities that Can Help — or Hurt — if Your Child has Scoliosis
These scoliosis do’s and don’ts also apply to adults!
Idiopathic scoliosis is a misunderstood condition. These are the recommended do’s and don’ts for people with scoliosis. You may think scoliosis stems from weak muscles, but it’s actually a genetic condition triggered by many factors. The spinal curve is just the most obvious symptom of the underlying scoliosis condition.
Table of Contents
Don'ts: Activities that May Trigger Scoliosis Problems
Don't Wait to Get Treatment
ou may have recently learned that your son or daughter has idiopathic scoliosis.
“The orthopedic doctor took X-rays and said there is a 20-degree curvature of the spine and nothing you can do now. You must wait six months to see if the scoliosis progresses.”
As far as scoliosis do’s and don’ts go, this is a definite don’t! If this doesn’t feel right to your parental instincts, that’s because waiting is a lost opportunity. Your child will benefit from early intervention and posture memory retraining even if the spinal curve is less than 10 degrees. Early intervention can reduce your child’s spinal curve and stop scoliosis progression. Get tips for stopping scoliosis progression sent directly to your email.
See ScoliSMART Small Curve Camp and BootCamp to get your child’s scoliosis treatment started RIGHT NOW!
Don't Text Frequently
The forward, bent-head position of texting is terrible for people with scoliosis. It’s not good for anyone, actually. It puts pressure on the spinal cord and compresses blood vessels. Poor texting posture damages the spinal cord and degenerates vertebra over time.
Texting often leads to chronic neck pain (“Text Neck”) and may trigger scoliosis progression. Using talk to text functions, holding the phone at eye level, and lying on a cervical roll are the safest ways to text.
Don't Swim Too Much
Competitive swimming is one of the exercises to avoid with scoliosis. Swimming laps for hours daily causes the thoracic spine (spine from the base of the neck to the bottom of the ribs) to flatten, which is linked to curve progression.
Some research data suggests the same holds true for competitive gymnastics and dancers participating in full-time ballet training.
Avoiding these activities of scoliosis progression is important so the three dimensions of the spine stay as close to normal as possible.
Don't Play Football
This is an example of scoliosis and sports not being a good fit. Football is a high-contact sport even when it’s played safely, so it can result in traumatic body and spine injuries. Traumatic sports like football put significant stress on your child’s spine. Your son will not develop scoliosis because of football, but if he has the idiopathic scoliosis genetic predisposition, it can be aggravated by football. Playing football is also dangerous if your son has metal rods in his back from scoliosis surgery.
Don't Sleep on Your Stomach
Sleeping with scoliosis can be a challenge. Sleeping on your stomach is the worst scoliosis sleeping position because it causes the thoracic spine to become flatter. Scoliosis is three dimensional; if one dimension gets worse, the others follow. Sleeping on your belly also requires you turn your head to the side, which twists your spine
Don't Perform Torso Extensions (Scoliosis exercises to avoid)
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.
Rather than force your child to quit these activities, have them limit backbends and use modified poses. This information can also help determine which Pilates exercises to avoid with scoliosis.
Don't Sleep With the Lights On
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland when your child sleeps. This hormone regulates puberty, especially in girls. Studies show that people with scoliosis have lower melatonin levels. Since melatonin is secreted while you sleep, even the faintest light can slow or stop its release. A melatonin deficiency can cause the early onset of puberty and associated growth spurts, as well as scoliosis progression. If your child enters puberty early, she has an increased risk of scoliosis progression because their brain and body aren’t yet in sync.
Consequently, sleeping with a light, night light or television is harmful to children with scoliosis, or who are at risk of scoliosis due to it running in the family. A streetlight shining in the window also disrupts sleep and melatonin secretion. If you have adult scoliosis, you’ll want to avoid light at night, as well.
Don't Run Long Distances on Hard Surfaces (Roads & Sidewalks)
Long-distance running with scoliosis can pose several problems. Spinal compression occurs every time you or your child takes a step, jumps or runs. Running over hills and uneven terrain also makes you bend or rotate your back. Prolonged running or jogging creates a great risk of scoliosis progression.
Horseback riding also compresses and jars the spine. If you pound a bent nail with a hammer, it becomes more bent.
We suggest limiting running to 400 meters, which is one lap around the track, or less.
Don't Play on Trampolines
Jumping on trampolines is disastrous if your child has scoliosis. It can lead to a rapid advancement of spine curvature and lumbar spine instability because jumping compresses the spine with every bounce. If your child has even mild scoliosis, it’s best to avoid this backyard fun.
Don't Carry Heavy Things
Carrying heavy things, especially on one side, adds to the natural pull of gravity and compresses your spine further. An overloaded backpack is terrible for your child with scoliosis. Carrying the pack over one shoulder is also unhealthy. The same advice goes for heavy weightlifting, especially if it compresses the lumbar spine (squats, deadlifts, lifting weight directly overhead, etc). This is also true for exercises to avoid after lumbar fusion.
Consult your fitness trainer regarding spinal fusion exercises to avoid, as well as exercises to avoid with lumbar scoliosis. They may also be able to advise you regarding weight lifting exercises to avoid with adult scoliosis.
The total weight of a backpack should not exceed 10 percent of your child’s body weight. Ask the school to provide a set of books for school and a second set for home.
Do's: Tips for Children (and Adults) with Scoliosis
Do Start Early Intervention
Doctors may tell you to wait six months to a year if your child has a mild curve, but the greatest results may be achieved if your child gets muscle retraining and nutritional support before the curve reaches 30 degrees.
You have the right to get a second opinion and choose the best scoliosis treatment options.
Do Use a Quality Mattress
While there’s no best bed for scoliosis, finding the best mattress for scoliosis can take some work. A firm or medium-firm mattress is the best scoliosis mattress you can choose. You want to be certain to pick one that fits your child’s body well – or yours if you have scoliosis. Skip the cushiony mattress pad, but use extra pillows for comfort.
Do Exercise to Avoid Scoliosis
Exercises to help you avoid scoliosis should focus on spine rotation. Scoliosis twists the spine into a bent position, therefore it must be untwisted out of the bent position. The ScoliSMART Activity Suit and Scoliosis BootCamp program are uniquely designed to target the spinal rotation caused by scoliosis.
Do Change Positions Frequently
Do Help with Chores
Stretching helps mitigate pain and discomfort. Good stretches include:
- Hang from a bar as long as possible, then repeat
- Bend in the direction of your curve
- Lie on rolled towels, one under your neck and the other under the lower back (spinal molding)
- Static chest stretch: stand and stretch arms out to your sides with the palms of your hands facing forward
Do Improve Core Strength
Do exercises to improve core strength. Core exercises are the best exercises for scoliosis because core muscles support the spine. Examples of core exercises are:
- Stand on a BOSU Balance Trainer or vestibular disc and balance; next, do three sets of 15 squats without weights
- Upright rows: stand with your spine very straight and do rows with dumbbells or a barbell
- Superman exercise: lie on your stomach with arms extended in front of you, palms down; lift both feet and arms
For additional exercises for people with scoliosis, see this page. A personalized, scoliosis-specific exercise program is another option that incorporates core strengthening, balance and stretching techniques to further strengthen your whole body.
Do Play Soccer
If your child has mild scoliosis, soccer is a great exercise that does not worsen scoliosis or cause its progression. It’s a good aerobic sport that strengthens the core muscles. All positions except goalie are fine. If your child has moderate to severe scoliosis, however, it’s best to talk to your doctor before enrolling in soccer.
Do Continue Dancing (Limiting Backbends)
Dancers with scoliosis need not fret! There’s no reason to make your child stop dancing. Some dance movements like repeated back bends can aggravate scoliosis, but avoiding those movements makes more sense than eliminating dance altogether.
Scoliosis muscle retraining treatment is a long-term commitment. We’ve found that restricting activities your child loves is psychologically damaging. A frustrated child often abandons her scoliosis treatment program quickly.
Do Genetic and Clinical Lab Testing
If your child has scoliosis, it’s likely that she also has neurotransmitter, hormone, and nutritional imbalances. Recent studies show that correcting these imbalances helps stop scoliosis progression. This enhances the results of scoliosis-specific exercises. Balanced neurotransmitters and hormones are related to your child’s proper spinal alignment.
Physical activity is essential for your physical and mental health. The scoliosis condition shouldn’t stop you or your child from doing the activities they love!
Don’t know where to start? Take our FREE “ScoliQuiz.” (No x-ray required)
ScoliSMART Clinics is committed to treating the WHOLE scoliosis condition, not only the curve. Genetic & clinical testing with targeted nutrient therapies, expert in-office treatment programs, and the world’s only ScoliSMART Activity Suit provides patients of all ages with the most comprehensive, most effective, and least invasive treatment options available worldwide.
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