Strength is your strength.
It is a common misconception that building a strong body is not attainable with a scoliotic spine, that your spine is weak and you shouldn’t lift weights. WRONG. It is absolutely possible to build a strong body, building strength will be your strength!
Diagnosed with scoliosis at 14 years old with a thoracic curve that grew to 52degrees by the time I was 18, it was another 25 years before I felt any ill effects from my curve. When X-rayed it showed that my thoracic curve had grown to 60 degrees and a more minor, compensatory curve was now present in my lumbar region – this beasty was seemingly the cause of my pain.
I’d been lifting weights, heavy weights for my small frame, loving the endorphin kick, the sense of achievement, the thrill of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and seeing the changes that strength work was making to my physique. But then the pain started. Initially I thought more foam rolling, more glute activation work, that would do the trick, so I'd turn up early for sessions, roll, stretch, and activate the muscles I thought were perhaps not firing, which was then causing my lower back to take the load. Unfortunately the back pain continued to get worse, I’m not a quitter but I had to stop. I sought advice and took it. I stopped lifting, I stopped running, I became more aware of my mobility. I had regular massage and acupuncture to work on the extreme muscle tension that had built up in my lower back, and I concentrated on being tall.
I was lucky enough to get an appointment with a Schroth expert who was visiting from Australia, I left that appointment feeling more positive about my spine than I had in months! He made me see that strength is my strength. I’ve built a strong core, back and shoulders and that is crucial in stabilising the spine. He taught me how to lengthen my spine and miraculously during that appointment I saw my spine straighter than I’d ever seen it. I now regularly do stretches and exercises to lengthen my spine, which helps create more evenness in the spine and ribs and releases tension in the muscles of the back.
I’ve learnt and am continuing to learn, what works for me and my back. I still lift weights, I just do so with more thought and control. The key factor is becoming aware of where your imbalances lie and identifying which muscles need stretching and which muscles need lengthening. There is no promise of a straighter spine through exercise, but exercise can help stabilise the spine, potentially even preventing or slowing the progression of the curve.
Don’t let Scoliosis define what you can and cannot do, use it as a tool to empower yourself. Let strength be your strength in managing your scoliosis.