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Scoliosis Do's and Don'ts (Scoliosis Self-Care)


Dr. Aatif Siddiqui


March 31 , 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.

Scoliosis do's and don'ts (Scoliosis Self-Care) 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 (Scoliosis Self-Care) for people with scoliosis. You may think scoliosis stems from weak muscles, but it’s actually a  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

You 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.  

As far as scoliosis do’s and don’ts (Scoliosis Self-Care) 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 curve progression. Get tips for stopping scoliosis progression sent directly to your email.

Now it’s even easier to connect with ScoliSMART. Schedule your no-cost, no-obligation phone or Zoom consultation online with a ScoliSMART physician. Schedule your consultation right here!

Don't Text Frequently

The forward, bent-head position of texting is terrible for people with the condition. 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 curve 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 this condition. 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 the condition 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 fusion 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. The spine curve 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 spinal 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.

Don't Sleep With the Lights On

Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland when your child sleeps. This  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 curve progression. If your child enters puberty early, she has an increased risk of curve 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 the condition 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)

Scoliosis do’s and don’ts include long-distance running, which 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 curve 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 the condition. This scoliosis do’s and don’ts 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 a mild curve, it’s best to avoid it.

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. Carrying the pack over one shoulder is also unhealthy. The same scoliosis do’s and don’ts 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 a lumbar curvature. They may also be able to advise you regarding weight lifting exercises to avoid with adult cases. 

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.

To learn more about how to treat the whole scoliosis condition and not only the curve, connect with our passionate providers at ScoliSMART. To explore a non-brace/ non-surgical treatment for your child’s scoliosis problem, you may schedule a no-cost Zoom or phone consultation with a ScoliSMART doctor. Please get in touch with us today!

Do Use a Quality Mattress

While there’s no best bed for the condition, finding the best mattress for scoliosis can take some work. A firm or medium-firm mattress is the best mattress you can choose. You want to be certain to pick one that fits your child’s body well – or yours if you have the condition. Skip the cushiony mattress pad, but use extra pillows for comfort.

Do Exercises To Reduce 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 the condition.

Do Change Positions Frequently

Back pain and scoliosis symptoms are often the result of staying in one position for too long. This has the affect of stressing and fatiguing the postural muscles, resulting in dull, achy, spasms type discomfort.


Do Stretch and Yoga

Stretching helps mitigate pain and discomfort. Good stretches include:

Recommended Stretches

  • 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, 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 a mild curve, soccer is a great exercise that does not worsen the condition 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 a moderate to severe curve, 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 the condition, it’s likely that she also has neurotransmitterhormone, and nutritional imbalances. Recent studies show that correcting these imbalances helps stop curve progression. This enhances the results of scoliosis-specific exercises. Balanced neurotransmitters and hormones are related to your child’s proper spinal alignment.

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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