Photo by Karolina Grabowska
Originally Posted On: Understanding and Living Well With Scoliosis – Karen Salmansohn (notsalmon.com)
Here’s a good summary all about understanding and living well with scoliosis – everything from exercises to posture tips and more!
Have you been diagnosed with scoliosis? Are you are wondering what the future might hold for you? Or maybe you have been diagnosed for some time. And you want to make sure you’re doing your very best to take care of yourself. If any of things resonates, the following tips will be helpful.
For a lot of people, a scoliosis diagnosis would have once meant that your life had to be extremely limited in what you could and could not do. Happily that’s not so anymore.
As you might already know, I’m a bestselling health and wellness author – who literally wrote the book on how to live healthier.
My bestseller Life is Long shares a wide range of cutting edge research on improving immunity, boosting longevity and improving clarity of mind. In this particular article, I’m going to share some interesting research about scoliosis and strategies for living well with it.
Please know that there might be challenges to your independence that will arise naturally. But there are ways to make sure that you’re living your best, most active, and highest quality of life, all the same.
First of all, before you start thinking about how your life might change, it’s important to remember that scoliosis can affect people in a lot of different ways. Idiopathic scoliosis and degenerative scoliosis (aka, whether it begins as a teen or as an adult as a result of spinal degeneration) can both present widely varying symptoms. A lot of people will present the curvature of the spine that defines the condition, but not experience any pain or have any need for surgical treatments. So, going forward, bear in mind that not all tips will apply directly to you.
1. Get a good night’s sleep
If you do experience the back pain that is a common symptom for those with scoliosis, then one of the ways that it can affect you is in changing your quality of sleep, often for the worse. Losing sleep or waking up during the night to back pain can have a major impact on your quality of life, from energy levels to feelings of stress, to even contributing to more back pain. As such, it’s important to look at how you sleep. Your mattress can play a large role in that.
A lot of people with scoliosis find that firmer mattresses or those with toppers as shown at The Sleep Judge can help improve their sleep at night. Plus it can improve how they feel in the morning.
2. Mind your posture
As well as improving your lifestyle, you should be mindful of what actions contribute to your symptoms. And then you should avoid doing them as much as possible. Everyone’s back health is affected by their daily posture. And it can affect those with spine curvature even more.
With this in mind, avoid slouching! You’ll help prevent bouts of back pain.
Similarly, you should avoid texting with your smartphone frequently. This bent-head position this usually entails can be terrible on your back. It puts pressure on your back and compresses blood vessels around the spinal cord. Maintain a good posture and it can genuinely reduce your symptoms.
3. Avoid carrying heavy things
When you carry heavy objects, then you are naturally going to be putting more strain on your core and your spine. If you are not carrying them properly, but leaning on one side, then your spine can be further compressed out of place.
This doesn’t just mean things like carrying furniture, either. Even carrying a loaded backpack can be terrible for your back over time. It can strain your neck and shoulders. This can then cause headaches, reduce your breathing capacity, cause muscle spasms and create back pain.
With this in mind, you should avoid lifting heavy things too often. And this includes heavy weightlifting if you want to avoid worsening your symptoms.
4. Mind how you sit
Sitting has become a major topic in the health world, as of late. Many think that we do too much of it. And that we’re doing it wrong. It’s true that a sedentary lifestyle can be a very bad thing.
One of the risks of sitting poorly for too long: damage to your back.
As such, it may be recommended that you not only take steps to improve your sitting posture but consider investing in equipment like an ergonomic chair. These chairs can provide back support that makes it easier for you to maintain your posture. More importantly, if you spend a lot of time sitting in a chair for work or hobbies, be sure to take a break and stretch your legs at least every hour.
Get the right kind and amount of physical activity
As mentioned, in the past, being diagnosed with scoliosis might have seen you getting a recommendation to avoid physical activity that could agitate your spine. Nowadays, however, depending on the severity of the condition, most doctors will, in fact, recommend that you invest time in measured and goal-driven exercise. Specifically, they may recommend exercises that can help strengthen the body’s core and promote flexibility, which can reduce some of the symptoms of scoliosis. It’s a good idea to seek the advice of your doctor to get an idea of which exercises aren’t likely to cause you any pain but Spine Health recommends a few that can immediately help you start treating those symptoms.
1. Get the help of a fitness professional
If you want to improve your mobility and strengthen your core and back to reduce the painful symptoms of the condition, then getting a little professional help can do a lot of good. This doesn’t mean that you should be working with a fitness coach or anything. Rather, you should be looking closely at the possibility of physical therapy. Your doctor might be able to recommend a physical therapist, especially one who might have some experience of helping patients with scoliosis in the past. Physical therapists effectively help you construct and follow workout routines with the specific purpose of reducing symptoms and improving your mobility and physical quality of life through exercise, with the Schroth Method being one type specifically developed for scoliosis.
2. Be aware of what exercises you probably shouldn’t do
While scoliosis does not have to necessarily limit you from sport or exercise, there are some that are better to avoid simply because of the ways that they can heighten symptoms of back pain. Swimming can be recommended as a way to build core strength, for instance, but competitive swimming done for hours can lead to faster curve progression of the spine. Football is a high contact sport that can put a lot of stress on the spine, as well, not to mention cause serious damage due to traumatic body injury. It’s best to talk to your doctor about which sports, in particular, you should avoid stopping your symptoms from progressing due to them.
3. Work with those who understand scoliosis
Given that scoliosis is a condition that affects all patients uniquely, causing symptoms to range from the benign to the debilitating, working with doctors who understand how to best treat and monitor the condition is going to be essential. For instance, you want doctors who know at which point you should be recommended surgery, rather than those who act too late or too early. Groups like the Southwest Scoliosis Institute can help you explore the full breadth of treatment that can help you live without back pain. As such, aside from seeing your regular doctor, who might not be quite as experienced in treating that specific condition, you may want to benefit from some specialist knowledge.
Explore scoliosis treatment options
Even if you may not need treatment immediately, it’s a good idea to look at your treatment options.
These scoliosis treatment options will depend on…
- your age
- any expected growth
- the type of curvature of the spine
- and more
There are 2 main routes of scoliosis treatment:
- Surgery is typically reserved for those with the most severe forms of scoliosis. Typically involves using a bone graft to fuse the spine into a straight position.
- The more common treatment, however, is bracing, which is typically recommended for those who are still growing and those are likely to experience a great degree of curvature without intervention.
Find yourself some support
One of the truths about living with scoliosis, or any condition that can cause back pain, is that it can feel like living with an invisible burden constantly attached to you. You may feel that people around you (outside of your immediate family) have a hard time understanding how scoliosis affects your life.
It might be worth looking for scoliosis communities – so you can share your experiences with others who relate and empathize. Support groups on social media can play a very important role in helping you talk about your condition. They can even provide more practical tips to help you live well, preventing pain, improving symptoms, and enhancing your quality of life.
Scoliosis can be a life changing diagnosis, there is no doubt about that. However, it doesn’t remove control of your life from your hands either. With the tips above, you can make sure you’re living well.