Your back is one of the most phenomenal feats of biological engineering in the world. It’s responsible for providing flexibility and mobility, but its complex system of stacked bones and cartilage protects your spinal cord. You only get one back, so it’s essential to take care of it the best you can. And if you have scoliosis, you know the discomfort firsthand.
The spine finds its way into the idioms of most cultures around the world. When you are brave, people say that you have a strong backbone. Those who are cowards are often described as having no backbone or a weak spine. Perhaps this comparison arises because your back keeps your body standing straight, tall, and strong.
When your back is injured or diseased, it affects your entire body. One of the most common back disorders is scoliosis. Maybe you are among the estimated six million people who’ve been diagnosed with this back disorder in America every year. The more you know about the condition, the more you can do to treat the symptoms.
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is also known as a spinal curvature that can present in different ways. It comes from the Greek word scoliosis, which means bent. The Ancient Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen were the first to describe spinal curvature as a disorder and theories for its causes and treatment.
While these early doctors were the first to identify scoliosis in medical terms, archeologists have noted abnormal spine curvatures in remains that are thousands of years old.
Are People Born with Scoliosis, or Is It Acquired?
•From Birth or Hereditary?
People can be diagnosed with one of three different types of curvatures. Yes, a genetic malformation at birth can cause you to have it, and this type is called congenital. In these cases, the healthcare professionals see the spinal abnormalities and can make an early diagnosis.
When healthcare specialists can’t pinpoint the cause of a disease or disorder, they usually describe it as idiopathic, meaning unknown cause. For most people diagnosed with spinal curvature, neither congenital nor traumatic reasons can be blamed. Idiopathic is the most common form of spinal curvature, and its signs usually develop in later childhood and teen years.
The third type of spinal curvature may result from primary disorders of the spine like cerebral palsy or spina bifida. This category also includes having an abnormally curved spine due to a traumatic injury. Those diagnosed with this type will often see a quick progression of symptoms that usually require surgical intervention.
•Upper or Lower Spinal Curvatures
The abnormal curvature of your spine may be prominent in different areas. Some people have the curve in their lower back, which is called lumbar spine curvature. When the upper back is affected, it’s called thoracic spine curvature. Both can be painful and problematic when doing daily activities.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis?
Although your spine does have a natural curve, one of the tell-tell signs of scoliosis is an unnatural spinal curvature. It puts the entire body out of line and can make everyday activities difficult or painful. Here are some other signs and symptoms to look for.
- Your head is off-center from above your pelvis.
- Your hips are out of line and can be raised or crooked.
- You notice an uneven waist.
- Your body seems like it is leaning toward one side.
- The bones of your rib cage are uneven.
- You notice a change in the texture or appearance of the skin covering your spine.
Some of these signs and symptoms will vary and may be more pronounced in individuals who’ve been diagnosed. If you notice any of these issues, discuss it with your primary healthcare provider as soon as possible. Early diagnosis can mean a big difference in your prognosis.
Stretches that Heal Scoliosis
While medical researchers continue to study and implement better techniques for treating a curved spine, there remains no cure for the disorder. Most people who’ve been diagnosed with spinal curvature have been successfully treated with physical therapy, exercise, braces, and sometimes surgery.
Have you been diagnosed with scoliosis, and your healthcare specialist has recommended exercise as part of your care plan? Although exercising isn’t a cure, some techniques may inhibit further curvature and minimize the muscle and joint pain associated with it. Yoga-inspired stretching is often recommended as a low-impact regime for people with spinal curvature.
You also don’t need special equipment, and you can do them in the comfort and privacy of your own home. On a beautiful day, you may want to do your stretching exercises in the great outdoors. Talk to your healthcare professional about adding these six stretches to your treatment regime.
1. Abdominal Stretch
To take undue stress from your back due to an abnormal curvature, building your abdominal muscles can help. For comfort, consider doing these stretches on a slip-resistant exercise mat.
How to Do It:
Lie flat on your back. You might find it more comfortable to place a pillow under the lower back and to support your neck. Raise your legs and bend them at a 90-degree angle, allowing your feet to rest against the chair’s seat. Rest your palms flat against your knees.
Now, gently push your hands against your knees while pushing your knees slightly forward, until you feel a pressure in your abdominal muscles. Hold this position while breathing for 3 seconds, relax, then repeat. Do two sets of 10 reps.
2. Classic Leg Lifts
Do you remember this basic exercise from gym class? Leg lifts improve strength in your hips, behind, and lower legs, but they can also strengthen your spinal muscles. It’s a stretching exercise with many benefits.
How to Do It:
Lie comfortably on your floor mat and allow your hands to relax palms down at each side. Hold your legs together and lift them together as high as you comfortably can. Hold this position for 3-5 breaths and lower them to the first position. Do 10-15 reps.
3. Standing Tall
Wouldn’t it be great if all exercises and stretches were this easy? It may not require strenuous movement, but standing tall gives your body a good stretch and encourages you to maintain a good spine-healthy posture.
How to Do It:
Stand straight on your mat with your feet together and your arms hanging naturally at your side. Allow your shoulders to drop down and back and ensure that your ears are aligned over your shoulders. Keep your chin tucked slightly in without being too far out or down. Let your knees be slightly unlocked and hold in your stomach slightly.
4. Side Tilts
Whether you have thoracic or lumbar spinal curvature, these easy exercises can stretch the side muscles that support your back. Stretch only to the point where you are comfortable because it shouldn’t be painful for you.
How to Do It:
Stand flat on your mat, as if you were standing tall. Your knees should be slightly bent, and your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Now, lift your hands over your head and gently hold your left wrist with your right hand. Tilt gently to the left until you feel a comfortably tight stretch in your body’s right side.
Practice mindful breathing for two breaths, then use your right foot to push your body into the first position. Reverse the hands and do a stretch for your left side. Do 10-15 reps with rest in between, if you need it.
If you’re a yoga enthusiast, you may recognize this stretch inspired by classic yoga poses. The Bird-Dog is also beneficial to your hips, legs, and upper back.
How to Do It:
For the first position, go to your hands and knees on your exercise mat and try to keep your back as straight as possible. Your hands should be aligned under your shoulders and knees under your hips, as in a dog pose in yoga.
Now, stretch your right arm straight out while extending your left leg straight out backward. Hold the position for at least 5 seconds and return to the first position. Repeat these steps with your right arm and your left leg. Do 10-15 reps for each side.
6. Arm & Leg Raises
This fun exercise combines the benefits of classic leg lifts while lifting the arms. Instead of being on your back, you will be on your tummy. Your entire back gets a workout.
How to Do It:
Lie flat on your belly with your head tilted up slightly, facing forward. Stretch your hands out with your palms flat, and extend your legs somewhat with your tiptoes resting on the mat.
While inhaling and exhaling, raise your right hand and left leg off the ground, then hold for five breaths. Relax and repeat for your left hand and right leg. Do at least 10-15 reps.
Final Thoughts on Using Stretches to Help Heal Scoliosis
Before you perform these or any exercises for scoliosis, talk to your healthcare specialist first. If you experience any pain, stop exercising at once and rest. Making these beneficial exercises part of your daily regimen may help minimize abnormal spinal curvature symptoms.