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Scoliosis and Exercise

Scoliosis is a condition that affects the vertebral column whereby it becomes curved from side to side. Only about 15% of cases are from people who are born with it and only 10% occur as a result of neuro-muscular disease. This leaves approximately 75% of cases of Scoliosis to occur by unknown reasons but most likely as a result of trauma and repetitive lifestyle movement patterns.

Whatever the reason, the mechanical imbalance inherent in scoliosis, irrespective of its cause, results in asymmetric loading which constitutes a ‘vicious cycle’ with an inevitable tendency to worsen with time. In fact, most cases of scoliosis continue to progress throughout the life of the patient. Symptoms that occur in association with scoliosis include pain and psychological distress. In curvatures involving the thoracic spine, reduced chest wall mobility and impaired excursion occur as a secondary effect of reduced spinal flexibility.

In more severe cases of Scoliosis, it can lead to diminishing lung capacity which leads to extra pressure on the heart, restricting the ability to be physically active.

So you have Scoliosis, what next? And is there any way of improving or managing the conditions so that your symptoms don’t worsen?  Exercise plays a very important role in the management of Scoliosis which can enhance quality of life. Exercises targeting the core muscles have been shown to increase your muscular control which enhances the stability of the vertebral column, therefore reducing the chance of further degeneration. Secondly the importance of maintaining flexibility of the thoracic spine to avoid scoliosis associated pulmonary dysfunction is another important consideration for people who are affected by scoliosis.

In the worst of cases spinal fusions can be a preventative action taken by people with scoliosis to straighten the spine. This invasive procedure can help to reduce back pain and assist in improving the severity of the symptoms associated with scoliosis.

However, people who take this course of action can tend to feel inflexible and may struggle to perform activities of daily living due to stiffness and tightness of the surrounding muscles. Here at Optimum we believe that this should always be a last resort and should always try to manage through exercise intervention first. Having an overall flexibility component to a scoliosis patient’s exercise program will therefore assist in combating the loss of spinal mobility. Stretching 2-3 times per day of the hip flexors and extensor muscles will greatly improve specific flexibility and aid scoliosis patient’s recovery and improve their general pain and stiffness thresholds by lengthening the muscles around the hip and lower back.

Ultimately, having Scoliosis doesn’t condemn you to a life of pain and inability to perform activities that give you a sense of well-being. If anything it is a condition that can be vastly improved and managed through the use of core and flexibility based exercise that will assist in muscular control, stabilization of the spine and lengthening of muscles that are tight and improve ability to perform everyday activities that bring enjoyment to their lives.

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