Are Scoliosis and Exercise a Good Mix?

What is scoliosis? Is it serious? Is exercise a good idea? We asked Dr Jean-François Catanzariti, scoliosis specialist, to help us answer these questions and straighten out common misconceptions.

Are Scoliosis and Exercise a Good Mix?
Is It a Good Idea to Exercise When You Have Scoliosis?

You may assume that exercise is not compatible with scoliosis treatment; in reality it will help the body to live with it and can help to reduce pain if it is present:

 “You must exercise when you have scoliosis because you need muscle to support your back. Studies from around the world have all shown that you have to keep moving. As a minimum, this means exercising at school and, ideally, another physical activity on the side. Exercise helps cancel out the negative effects of scoliosis.” says Dr. Jean François Catanzariti, head of department at the Marc Sautelet institute (functional rehabilitation center) and specialist in scoliosis in children at the scoliosis clinic in Villeneuve d'Ascq.

Exercising  increases aerobic capacity, bone density through impact sports, and core muscle strength. It is also good for the mind, it helps with body awareness, and develops self-esteem and body image, especially during the teenage years.


Which Kind of Exercise Is Best for Scoliosis?

When it comes to back problems, most of the time we think of turning to gentler, symmetrical, impact-free activities. But Dr. Catanzariti is not as restrictive. He reiterates the benefits of improving core muscle strength with methods such as Pilates, but also climbing, a sport that gives you a full-body workout while developing both strength and flexibility. Synchronized swimming works as well, which helps improve the vertical perception of the body.

Contrary to what you might think, racquet sports are indeed suitable, no strings attached. Despite their asymmetry, they have no influence on the course of idiopathic scoliosis.

Swimming is fine, but it is not the ideal sport because it does not help to increase bone density, which is often low.

Horseback riding posture is very ergonomic for the back. The only risk is falling, but there are ways to help prevent this, even without scoliosis.

Dr. Catanzariti specifies that you need to be careful with some types of sports, such as gymnastics (artistic, rhythmic) or ballet. Doing these sports for more than 10 hours a week can make scoliosis worse. How? They tend to encourage hypermobility and do not sufficiently help to strengthen muscles. So, be careful with thoracic extension exercises, especially those with large amplitude.

Are There Any Exercises You Can Do to Strengthen Your Back When You Have Scoliosis?

Our expert explained to me that the exercises depend on each patient. Physiotherapists work on the perception of correct posture, then strengthen the body through muscle strengthening and Pilates exercises.

They then hand their work over to adapted physical activity teachers for full-body sports sessions specific to scoliosis, with circuit training or high-intensity interval training. The exercises focus on the muscles of the trunk, for example: core muscle strengthening with front, side and reverse plank variations.

However, your exercise needs to be monitored by a sports and/or health professional when you have scoliosis.


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