Exercises to Reduce Scoliosis Back Pain
Back pain from scoliosis, or a left to right curvature of the spine, usually results from muscle imbalances created by misaligned vertebrae, according to the National Scoliosis Foundation. Muscles on one side of your body will be tight compared to the other side. If you do not stretch and strengthen your spinal muscles, these imbalances will worsen, causing further pain. Apply a hot pack for 10 minutes along your spine prior to your exercises to enhance your spine’s mobility.
Lying Side Stretch
This exercise stretches your mid-back muscles and your obliques along the side of your trunk, decreasing muscle tightness and back pain. It is done on a massage table or exercise bench so your arm can dangle off the edge. You will need a folded towel to place between one side of your trunk and the table for this stretch to be effective. First, lie on the tight side of your body; this is the side where your scoliosis draws one shoulder closer to the hip on the same side. Ensure that your trunk and pelvis is aligned. Then, drape the top arm over the side of your head, dangling off the edge. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Complete four more reps per side. Increase the degree of this stretch by rolling a large towel to place under your trunk, according to the book “Therapeutic Exercise for Musculoskeletal Injuries.”
Arch and Extension
There are three positions for this exercise, combining a cat-and-camel stretch with a back extension. It stretches your spinal flexors, spinal extensors, mid back muscles and your obliques, reducing tightness and pain. First, get on your hands and knees forming near 90-degree angles at your hips, shoulders and knees. Then, draw your navel toward your spine, arching your back upward; hold the stretch for five seconds. Next, sit backward onto your calves, keeping your arms and hands in place to stretch your mid back and oblique muscles; hold for five seconds. Finally, lie forward, straightening your legs and placing your pelvis on the floor. Keep your arms in position to hold your upper body erect, extending your spine; hold for five seconds. Repeat this series of steps for four more reps.
Dumbbell Side Bends
Dumbbell side bends strengthen your weaker muscles at the side of your trunk. Do this exercise only on the side in which the scoliosis curve separates the shoulder and hip on the same side. Once you have more strength and muscle tone on this side and more flexibility on the other side, begin doing side bends on both sides. This will reduce muscle fatigue on the over-stretched side, decreasing your back pain. First, hold a 5-lb. dumbbell with your hand opposite the over-stretched side; place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and bend your knees. Then, bend as far as comfortably possible to the side at which you are holding the dumbbell. Next, contract the muscles of the over-stretched side to raise your trunk to an upright position. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps.
- National Scoliosis Foundation: Exercise and Adults with Scoliosis
- “Therapeutic Exercise for Musculoskeletal Injuries”; Peggy Houglum, Ph.D.; 2005
Paula Quinene is an Expert/Talent, Writer and Content Evaluator for Demand Media, with more than 1,500 articles published primarily in health, fitness and nutrition. She has been an avid weight trainer and runner since 1988. She has worked in the fitness industry since 1990. She graduated with a Bachelor's in exercise science from the University of Oregon and continues to train clients as an ACSM-Certified Health Fitness Specialist.