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Treating Scoliosis

Updated on July 13, 2013

What is Scoliosis? My story of straightening an s-shaped spine

I developed scoliosis at the age of twelve and a half, and it was quite severe. But by the time I was fourteen, my spine was straight again. You can fix your own scoliosis through posture exercises and massage if you are sensible, avoid injury, make sure you are performing the exercises correctly - and if you keep going.

I treated my scoliosis with physiotherapy - I exercised daily to straighten my back muscles. This page is an attempt to share what I learnt about curing your own scoliosis.

I remember when we discovered it quite vividly, because it HURT. I had dreadful back and chest pain and didn't have to eat dinner (which was great, as it was food I didn't like!) We'd just been to the swimming pool and I thought it must have been from all the dolphin diving I'd been doing (basically I stood up, dived, stood up, dived.... over and over in the shallow end!)

But it turned out to be scoliosis. The curve of the spine is visible to the naked eye and when I bent over it was easy to see the dramatic s-bend in my spine. My parents knew what it was, and were easily able to identify it - apparently we had a family history of it, and I guess they feared it might turn up in us kids. And I am incredibly glad they recognised it - and acted.

The one thing I absolutely recommend is an exercise ball - for anyone with posture problems, but especially for scoliosis. (Also, they're fun!)

Do You Have Scoliosis? - I just can't go straight...

Do you, or did you ever have, Scoliosis?

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Congenital or Structural (Idiopathic)?

What kind of Scoliosis do you have?

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame - The difference between scoliosis and kyphosis.

When people hear about crooked spines, they think of hunchbacks. This isn't quite accurate. There are two main types of spinal crookedness:

Scoliosis, in which the spine forms an S shape from side to side, tilting the person's back, hips and shoulders left and right.

Kyphosis in with the spine curves in and out creating a hump on their backs. This is what is seen in the case of The Hunchback of Notre Dame!

Deenie by Judy Blume - A Children's Story about Scoliosis

I actually read this book before I was diagnosed - I didn't really remember it at the time, but I went back and read it again afterwards and it made a lot more sense as it actually mattered to me now. Deenie is a girl who is diagnosed with scoliosis when she is thirteen - half a year older than I was. She's also on track for a career as a model, which frankly wasn't something I was interested in! But the family dynamics, the schooling, the friends... I still remember a scene on a bench with her friend. Those were all interesting. Judy Blume writes good books for kids. Well, young teens. (I read everything I could get my hands on, so I'd have read it whatever it was like - but it did mean I could recognise a good book when I'd finished!)

More to the point, Deenie has to wear a brace from her neck to her hips. It's an ugly and uncomfortable cage. But she learns how to cope and she has hope ahead. (To my disappointment, that's pretty much where it ends - at the point where she's learnt to live with it. We don't get to read until the brace comes off again).

Deenie
Deenie

I'd recommend this to anyone between 10 and 15. There aren't many fiction books out there about people with scoliosis and this is one of the classics.

 
A deer centaur stretching by Flynn the Cat
A deer centaur stretching by Flynn the Cat

How can you cure Scoliosis?

The common treatments for scoliosis

I know of three main ways to treat scoliosis.

1. The Brace: This is what it sounds like - a large metal brace (or possibly other substances by now) around your back to force your posture and your spine straight. Obviously irritating and uncomfortable, this is what Deenie wore in the book of the same name (below).

2. Rods and Surgery: this is what my aunt ended up with. The spine is surgically straightened and rods are inserted into the spine to force it to remain straight. It is painful and permanently restricts your mobility (you can't bend over easily anymore!) She also wears orthopaedic shoes.

3. Physiotheraphy: This was the route I took. I suspect it depends on what causes your scoliosis - in my case it was muscular/postural. I was also still growing, and it was diagnosed very early. (By 'very early' I mean that it was advanced, but I had not been living with it very long and it was still getting worse).

Physiotherapy, yoga and massage therapy work on the muscles each side of the spine - I've described this more in the rest of the lens.

Pilates and the Alexander technique are also good approaches - the Alexander Technique is a gentler way of realigning your posture.

- walking (NOT running) and trampolining and swimming (particularly breaststroke) are all recommended activities.

If your scoliosis is caused by both legs being short than the other, you can also get special orthopaedic shoes.

Which route did you go down to fix your scoliosis?

How did you 'fix' your Scoliosis?

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Scoliosis Massage Therapy - Massage treatment for spinal curves

I went to see my physiotherapist regularly, and yes, I do remember that there was massage therapy. These should give you an idea of what's involved.

Massage therapy on its own is unlikely to cure scoliosis - but it can help relieve the pain, loosen your muscles and keep you on track. Also, you have the benefit of a (hopefully) trained professional having a lookat what your spine is doing.

Treating Scoliosis Yourself - There's a lot more available along the lines of physiotherapy and yoga than there used to be

While the physiotherapist was the reason my spine ended up straight again, I had to do all the work myself. The daily exercises strengthening the muscles evenly along my spine, and correcting my posture were what helped 'cure' my scoliosis.

I still have a 'crunchy' spine - when it's stiff I can click it all back into place, and if I roll my right shoulder, the shoulderblade crunches quite audibly against the spine. I've lost my sheet of exercises, but most of them were quite straightforward, and there are some good resources easily available now such as these books, and the videos below.

I redrew the ones involving the ball (directly below) and if you search for exercises to correct back posture you should find a lot. Most exercise balls come with a sheet of 'how to use this ball' exercises these days, as well.

Excercise Balls - Why is an Exercise Ball important? And what do you look for when buying one?

When I was 12, we were poor, lived in the middle of New Zealand and I had two younger siblings. (Well, I still have those!) My physiotherapist told them to buy an exercise ball - and they did. It cost a lot of money (especially for us, then) but luckily they're a lot cheaper now.

Until I got this, I had a few exercises but there wasn't much else I could do. Once the ball arrived I went through the whole list every morning and every night. Each session was about twenty minutes long. Most of them involved balancing, and building up muscle strength in my back, so that each side of my spine was equal.

Six months later, I was pretty much cured. Two months after that, my siblings couldn't resist the GIANT bouncy ball and took it out in the garden to play with, and punctured it. I still miss it. In fact, I'm considering buying another, as they make good seats, are good for balance, and exercising on - and especially for back exercises. That, and there's always the risk that I'll develop a nasty slouch that will set my spine curving again...

Edit: ha. I'm sitting on one right now, the back pain got too much.

Professional Stability Ball by GoFit
Professional Stability Ball by GoFit

You want a strong ball, that won't burst or give way when you're using it. Smooth skinned balls are more comfortable, but more slippery. For size - ideally, you want to be able to sit on it comfortably, or balance, lying down, with your weight on your arms. So measure the height of a chair or the length of your arm and add a few centimetres for bounce.

55cm is about right for small-medium height person (5"0" to 5'7" tall), but they offer a range of sizes.

 

Ball Exercises: Strengthening the Back Muscles - ...and correcting posture

Exercises fore scoliosis: Roll the hips back and forwoard, and side to side
Exercises fore scoliosis: Roll the hips back and forwoard, and side to side

Repeat the exercises below (and any others you like) for about 40 minutes a day (e.g. twenty minutes in the morning and again at night).

Exercises for scoliosis: Balancing and strengthing back muscles to correct the posture
Exercises for scoliosis: Balancing and strengthing back muscles to correct the posture

These are harder and need your back to be straight to stop you falling off. It helps build up the muscles in your back and correct your posture.

If you have trouble balancing, rest on your chest or stomach, and move to balancing on your thighs. Also, you can just flop over the ball to relax your muscles if they're tense.

Amazing Chairs for Posture and Exercise - I found these chairs while browsing - and now I really want one

These chairs are all very positively reviewed alternatives to a 'normal' chair. They force you to stay upright and keep a good posture. You should be able to get a similar result with a plain exercise ball, but these are actually designed for sitting at the desk with.

They're expensive, but apparently worth it. I want one, but I can't ship them to NZ!

Guestbook - Ever met anyone with scoliosis?

Ice Dragon Guestbook Image from Flynn the Cat
Ice Dragon Guestbook Image from Flynn the Cat

Comments - Ever met anyone with scoliosis?

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    • Jessica Ranae Ray profile image

      Jessica Williams 2 years ago from Arizona

      I am 26 and have just discovered that I have Scoliosis of the neck. I am clueless as to what to do...

    • profile image

      fanaticforfitness 3 years ago

      Scoliosis is much easier to treat as a young child. Once late teenage years are reached the spine responds less to treatments

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 3 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      I never knew there were exercises until recently. Like you, I found the video above on youTube. I am also now seeing a physio. I have M.E. So have to exercise cautiously. So glad your spine is now straight.

    • Rosanna Grace profile image

      Rosanna Grace 4 years ago

      My sister was diagnosed as a young teenager and wore a brace for several years. She still gets lots of pain from the condition. I was diagnosed about 5 years ago and have benefited from extensive physio and pilates based exercise. The pain gets unbearable at times and flares under specific conditions that I am more aware of now.

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image
      Author

      FlynntheCat1 4 years ago

      @erbeaz: I've actually recently started wearing a heel insert in my shoe - I went too 'high' at first and my other leg hurt like crazy from actually having to stretch out, but I've adjusted and it made a big difference (I was getting back/shoulder problems again).

    • erbeaz profile image

      erbeaz 4 years ago

      My mother and all of us kids have scoliosis. My older sister had surgery and a rod placed. I had a milder case and wore one shoe elevated for a time and we all had to do exercises. I've had a lot of chiropractic treatments and physical therapy over the years. I don't know that I was actually "cured." Now as I am growing older my scoliosis is more pronounced and my back and neck bother me a lot.

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 4 years ago from US/TN

      I have mild scoliosis, but I treated it with exercise and it no longer bothers me. I was diagnosed around the age of 10 or 12 -- a tough time to have to deal with an unusual condition. I hadn't thought about those days for a long time. (It was nice of you to write a lens about this condition so you can help others.)

    • funnygusta profile image

      funnygusta 4 years ago

      scolliosis can be treated with fitness exercises specially made for this affection. Are named pilates exercises, and have great results.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i am a female aged 21 n just discovered i have scoliosis this year in january...i'd love to try the ball exercise i hear its quite effective although i can't afford it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      im 21 this year. i have scoliosis for 9 years now. serious curvature of 50 over degree. gonna do my exercises religiously, im sure it would straighten one day, not too far away.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @AussieAnnie LM: does it have to be the scroth method, what would i ask a physio for that i know will do the best for my sons scoliosis, he has been going to a sports therapist but i feel he doesn't know enough about it, trying to find someone along mornington peninsula in victoria

    • exotickitten731 profile image

      exotickitten731 5 years ago

      thank you for sharing this lens, i guess i'll do a bit of brace & physio to help me out = ] thanks again for creating such an informal lens and keep up the good work!

    • AussieAnnie LM profile image

      AussieAnnie LM 5 years ago

      I treat many patients with scoliosis and core training is certainly the key.

      Maybe you could check out some of my lenses

    • ChiroAustin profile image

      ChiroAustin 5 years ago

      Really appreciate you sharing this lens.

      thought you might like to read this...

      http://www.lifechiropracticdc.com/templates20/arti...

      please check out my lens too...www.squidoo.com/LifeChiropractic. Thanks.

    • profile image

      nana_wu 5 years ago

      @FlynntheCat1: ^^; Oh okay, I misunderstood. Thanks for letting me know!

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image
      Author

      FlynntheCat1 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Sorry, I answered confusingly. I was agreeing with you :D Higher shoulder = good to push down.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @FlynntheCat1: Thanks for telling me! Even my family thought I should be pulling down my higher shoulder, I didn't think it would make it worseI guess I should research more carefully.

      Ill keep in mind about not leaning on a leg that seems easier to lean on.

      I definitely need to research more. And actually I would have responded sooner but I was caught up in finding more information.

      Im slowly doing the strengthening ball exercises that you have illustrated. Thank you for being awesome and answering all my questions! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @FlynntheCat1: I think I got it, not sure about my body hanging down from my head. I might be thinking too much. But thanks for your advice, I think with practice it'll come to me.

      Ok, this is definitely going to be the last question (or two actually) because this has been on my mind for some time.

      I have uneven shoulders, so which shoulder should I put my bag strap on or which one should carry more weight? I thought the one that is higher should take the weight or have the bag strap, so the weight will pull it down. But sometimes I notice that I lift that shoulder up without thinking.

      And I guess it's a little ridiculous to ask but what about uneven hips? Should I be putting weight on any one leg?

      That's it, if I happen to have any more questions, Ill look for answers elsewhere. Im sorry that I keep asking questions and for this late reply. I didn't have internet connection and was occupy by visiting relatives. I hope you can understand my questions.

      But really, Ill stop asking questions after this. ^^;

      Anyway, have a nice day!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @LaraineRoses: This always did good for my back http://howtofixstuff.blogspot.com/2012/01/how-to-f...

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image
      Author

      FlynntheCat1 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Tell them not to grab you by the shoulders, tell them to push you in the spine in between your shoulder blades! (Assuming you want them to...).

      To sit or stand straight, concentrate on your upper back, relax your shoulders and pull your upper spine in, and pull your head straight up. If you get it right, it feels as if your body is hanging down from your head. If your shoulders are hanging forward, rather than straight down then you're slouching.

      If your posture's bad, it will be quite hard to sit straight, as your back muscles will complain (wusses). So just practice regularly, make sure you sit straight when possible and that you are comfortable.

      It all ties in together - exercises, posture, balance, spine straightness - so as your work on one, you'll find you are doing the others as well.

      Good luck!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @FlynntheCat1: Hi Flynn_the_Cat,

      Thanks again for your response!

      I will try to mix up some exercises so I could see what works and hopefully I wont become bore. And I will look into more about Pilates.

      I definitely learned my lesson after that yoga pose, that whole day my back really hurt! Actually I took a yoga class before but it was only for maybe a little more than a month. I asked my instructor about poses for scoliosis and a way to maybe fix it, but she said there was nothing. She did mention a few poses not to do, but I don't remember what and I lost the paper that I wrote them down on. So I will just rely on how I feel.

      I remember for a long time my computer was set up to the sideso for a long time I guess did more harm to my spine whenever I have to turn to look at the screen to my right.

      HmmI have one last question, what's the right/straight way to walk? Because sometimes my family like to grab me by the shoulders and tell me walk straight when I never notice that Im not walking straight! I could find the answer somewhere because I think I read it somewhere about this. But I would like to know how you dealt with this.

      And I think that's all the questions I have. Sorry for asking many questions!

      Looking forward to your response!

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image
      Author

      FlynntheCat1 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Nana,

      Don't worry, weirdly late responses are the curse of the internets.

      Yeah, exercises can be boring - and the terrible slouch! There's really no magic cure for that, except maybe joining a group, experimenting with lots of different exercises (maybe do a different one every day!) and keeping going. Making sure your computer is set up properly so that you are comfortable and have to sit up reasonably straight to see the screen would help.

      Yoga is actually quite difficult for beginners, and yeah - much more likely to hurt. Pilates is a bit gentler. Basically, if it hurts, don't do it. Your muscles aren't up to it yet. As long as you do what you can, you'll gradually be able to do more.

      Stick with it - maybe try to fit in ten or fifteen minutes a day while watching TV or something. And the less you slouch, the stronger the muscles in your back will get and longer you can not slouch for :D

      Happy New Year to you too!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @FlynntheCat1: Thank you very much for your reply! Im sorry that this reply is extremely late! I did keep coming back to check for a reply, eventually I was busy then a lovely computer virus came along. After that college life came to throw me off balanceIm terrible with juggling multiple tasks especially under stress.

      I admit that tried to do the exercises for a week then I slowly did lessPartly because it was definitely boring! And also I guess I was getting discourage. I know this definitely requires patience and persistence. When college came around, I forgotten about my scoliosis. The only time it bother me was when a family member might try to get a good look at my back or my walking. Then I would do exercises for awhile but slowly the same thing happens again! I also can't help slouching when doing work or on the computerI always forget.

      I think exercises are good to do even if its not for scoliosis. Although Im wondering, are there any particular or type of exercises that I shouldn't do?

      I remember doing a yoga pose, which I can't remember the name, and it really hurt my back so I stop doing it. So Im thinking any poses that put pressure on my spine, I should stop doing it. And anything painful, of course, forget about it.

      Im going to actually write down what exercises to do then try it again. Ill try not to feel discourage. At the same time, I admit lately I have been hoping to see my scoliosis gone and gain some inches because of my spine. ^^;

      Well that's it, Im sorry this response is much longer than I expected. Thanks again for being so helpful! I look forward to what you'll say even though this is quite old.

      Oh and Happy New Years!

      Nana

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 6 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      A young friend of mine has scoliosis. She does exercises but not every day. I wonder if she has a stability ball. Maybe it will be something I can buy for her.

      Thank you for this lens. It has helped me to understand this condition.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      i have scoliosis and i have had it for sometime not im only thirteen and it's 42% curved i do therapy in all but it don't seem to help me:/ i no i don't want surgery cuz im a chicken getting put under the knife.so what do i do?

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image
      Author

      FlynntheCat1 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Nana!, hope I can help - sorry this is a late reply, I've been travelling ^_^

      1) Theoretically. The whole reason it's curved is because the muscles are pushing the spine awry (why they're doing that is another problem), and if you fix the muscles, they should fix the spine.

      2). All the ones I remember are in the diagrams up above! I did them all, so I can't point to particular ones, but basically anything that corrects posture.

      3). Yep, that's how long I did them - the only harm I can think of if you do more are the usual risks of pushing your body too far. And boredom!

      4). Ah! That's something I completely forgot to talk about. I did indeed use a pillow! Along my back if on my side, under my knees if on my back, and under my hips if on my front.

    • franstan lm profile image

      franstan lm 6 years ago

      I have scoliosis

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you very much for this helpful lens! I have scoliosis for a very long time and I had given up trying to fix the curve. Hopefully with this lens, I can still do something about it. I'm amaze that you were able to make your spine straight. I was always told it was hopeless. I have a few questions that I hope you could answer:

      1) Will exercises alone help fix scoliosis? Like yoga and pilates?

      2) Do you remember any particular exercises that were really helpful? Maybe ones that can correct uneven hips and shoulders?

      3) So the exercises are in total 40 mins a day? Im guessing doing more does no harm?

      4) This might sound strange but how did you sleep? I think sleeping on the back is the best way....did you use a pillow to sleep? I heard without a pillow your whole body, including the spine, will realign itself as you sleep.

      That's all the questions I have. I hope you are able to answer them since this must have been a long time ago.

      Thanks again! I'm so happy to find a success story with scoliosis. :)

      Nana

    • ClaytonStitzel profile image

      ClaytonStitzel 6 years ago

      Idiopathic scoliosis is primarily a neurological condition that has its primary effect on the spine, rather than "just a spine condition". With that in mind, it is no wonder scoliosis brace treatment and scoliosis surgery are becoming obsolete rather quickly. The advent of break through prognostic technologies like Scoliscore (genetic testing) and the soon-to-be-released scoliosis blood test are only going to increase the push for early stage scoliosis intervention scoliosis treatment technology as well. Fortunately, we are already well on our way towards prevention of the condition and hope to prove we can alter the natural course of the condition in even high risk genetically predisposed patients soon. Feel free to check out the neuro-muscular based rehab programs we have specifically designed for idiopathic scoliosis. http://www.treatingscoliosis.com

    • Tyla MacAllister profile image

      Tyla MacAllister 6 years ago

      I have a mild case of scoliosis that developed when I was a teenager. My mother and brother also have mild curvature of the spine. I never got medical treatment for it because my doctor didn't think it was necessary. I used to do a lot of yoga and I used an exercise ball and I never had much pain until recently. I am starting to have some problems now so I guess I should go back to the exercises before it worsens.

      I'm glad you found a solution for your scoliosis. I know this lens is helping a lot of people who have to live with this condition. *Blessed by a squidangel.*

    • asiliveandbreathe profile image

      asiliveandbreathe 7 years ago

      Excellent lens, it's been added to my favourites. I have scoliosis too and have written my first lens on the subject with a link to this one.

    • Lynne-Modranski profile image

      Lynne Modranski 7 years ago from Ohio

      Well done! 5*'s for this one. My mom has suffered with scoliosis her entire life. She was also diagnosed in her teens, but because it was in the early '50's they didn't really do anything about it. It has contibuted to a lot of other problems with her hips, knees and back. She finally got a lift a few years ago (not sure why no one did that for her earlier) that has helped a bit.

    • profile image

      Geeve 7 years ago

      Well done Flynn, I am sure that this lens will be of great help to anyone that is diagnosed with the condition.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 7 years ago

      You did a nice job with this. I had scoliosis screening when I was twelve, but they diagnosed it as lordosis, which is closer to kyphosis, I think. There might have been a tiny bit of scoliosis, too. I was given a lift to wear in one shoe because one leg was longer than the other.