Corrective Exercise and Scoliosis

A statement that I get often from clients and personal trainers is, “My doctor has told me that I have some scoliosis in my spine. What can I do about it?”

After training people with scoliosis and hearing these questions from a number of trainers and coaches, I created Effective Exercises for Scoliosis.

I am a huge believer in learning.  Right now, I am at a conference in San Diego and before the conference I am writing this post at a local coffee shop at 4:30 am.

Every few months, I like to look into the research to see what is new when it comes to scoliosis and exercises.

Cardio is Great for Scoliosis (Yes, Slow Cardio)

What the Research Looked At:

What effect does a 6-week aerobic training program have on girls with mild scoliosis compared to a control group.

What are the Results of the Scoliosis and Exercise Research:

  • The aerobic training program led to an improvement anaerobic threshold in both groups.
  • There was a significant change in body composition in the scoliosis group.
  • The VO2 max increased 17% in the scoliosis group and 10% in the control group.

Rick’s Comment on the Research:

This shows that those with scoliosis can benefit from aerobic exercise. Yes, slow boring cardio.  Getting those with scoliosis to work on their cardiovascular fitness leads to improvements in cardiovascular levels but also body shape.

In fitness, there has been a trend in discouraging cardiovascular training. With special populations, like those with scoliosis, there is a physiological and kinathropometric benefit from investing in it. Those with scoliosis should be encouraged to do cardiovascular exercise and work with fitness professionals that can help provide them with guidance on what to do.

This will lead to a decrease in pain level, slow down progression of their scoliosis, and improve self image in girls with scoliosis.

We need to encourage and educate girls with scoliosis that it is okay, safe, and beneficial for them to do cardiovascular fitness.

You can get more information here:

Bas P, Romagnoli M, Gomez-Cabrera MC, Bas JL, Aura JV, Franco N, Bas T. Beneficial effects of aerobic training in adolescent patients with moderate idiopathic scoliosis. Eur Spine J. 2011 Aug;20 Suppl 3:415-9. Epub 2011 Jul 22.

Is Corrective Exercise Good for those with Scoliosis?

This is What the Researchers Looked At:

A group of 94 children, age 8 to 13 years old with scoliosis, performed a 6-month corrective exercise program in the water in order to help with improving curvature of the spine and movement.

What the Corrective Exercise Program Looked Like:

The corrective exercise program was divided into three parts.

The first part of the corrective exercise program was to prepare the child’s body for physical effort. This was 10-minutes long which included hot shower, dry land movements, and swimming a short distance.

The second phase was the main part of the program, which was the intensive main. Some of the exercises performed were backstroke with a kick board under the head and thoracic spine, scissor kicks with a kick board, and doing movements with a waist float on.

The third part was a 5 minute recovery phase with whirlpool, warm shower, and water massage in the shower.

The Results of the Scoliosis Research:

  • There was a significant increase in the length of the spine.
  • Bending angle of the spine improved.
  • Shoulder mobility and erector spinae strength improved.

Rick’s Take on the Research:

This is more evidence on the importance of exercise for chronic injuries, like scoliosis. The thought is that people with chronic injuries, like scoliosis, should be cautious when exercising. Yes, they should be, but it is important for them to incorporate this into one’s life.  It will help improve their scoliosis.

It is great to see corrective exercise moving more and more into the research but it is interesting to see what these researchers from Poland called, “corrective exercise.” It is different from what many fitness professionals in North America would call corrective exercise.

Looking at their corrective exercise program it includes a dynamic warm up, followed by the main program and wrapped up with recovery strategies. This research shows it is great for scoliosis clients but this is a program structure that will help anyone.

You can get more information on this research, here:

Barczyk K, Zawadzka D, Hawrylak A, Bocheńska A, Skolimowska B, Małachowska-Sobieska M. The influence of corrective exercises in a water environment on the shape of the antero-posterior curves of the spine and on the functional status of the locomotor system in children with Io scoliosis. Ortop Traumatol Rehabil. 2009 May-Jun;11(3):209-21.

That is it for this morning’s learning on scoliosis and exercise.

Now it is off to learn some training techniques for fat loss. Should be fun.

If you are looking for an exercise program targeted for scoliosis, check out Effective Exercises for Scoliosis:

Rick Kaselj, MS

Here are a few more articles on scoliosis and exercise that may interest you: