Weight training is a fantastic way to keep the body and mind fit, as it can help you manage your weight, increase your metabolism, sharpen your reasoning and memory, and enhance your overall quality of life. However, because weight training involves lifting and bending the spine, many people wonder if weight training with scoliosis can be done safely.
This article will explain scoliosis and how it affects your performance and safety in the gym as well as provide advice and solutions for people with scoliosis.
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a developmental spinal condition that results in the abnormal twisting or rotating of the spine, which acquires a lateral curvature that surpasses 10 degrees. It results in a C- or S-shaped alteration to the spine’s normal structure.
Scoliosis can be visible or unnoticeable depending on how much of the spine is bent. Despite its common association with adolescents, scoliosis may occur at any age. In more than 80% of cases, there is no clear-cut catalyst that produces scoliosis—this is true for the majority of cases where there is no known cause.
People with scoliosis typically have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Back pain
- Tingling sensations and/or numbness that can extend into the legs and feet
- Aches and pain in the joints of the spine such as the vertebrae or sacroiliac (SI) joints
- Leaning to one side
- Difficulty sitting or standing for long periods
- One shoulder blade is visibly higher than the other
- Pelvic misalignment
The body relies on the spine and its natural curvature for a variety of purposes. Not only is the spine the body’s main support structure but it’s also the body’s primary shock absorber. It also protects the core of the central nervous system and houses the spinal cord, which carries nerve impulses that help you move and feel sensations to the rest of the body.
Because scoliosis alters the natural curvature and alignment of the spine, it interferes with the body’s ability to perform its latent functions.
Is It Safe to Weight Train With Scoliosis?
Weight training with scoliosis can be safe; however, understanding how and why requires a bit more nuance.
We understand that the spine is already under a high amount of exogenous force when performing its basic functions. While there are exercises that target the back specifically, nearly every exercise that you perform uses the spine in some capacity because it keeps you upright and maintains your form.
The stress experienced by the spine is compounded by the additional force from adding weights to exercises. Moreover, weight lifting involves repetitive movements that place excess strain on the back and the spine.
Back injuries from gym activities are extremely common in people who have improper spinal curvature. Those with scoliosis are likely to experience an increased risk of injury due to the uneven distribution of weight and pressure on the various parts of the body. This isn’t isolated to the spine, either, since the lateral curvature also affects how weight falls onto the legs, shoulders, and hips.
This means that exercises with downward force and axial loading can aggravate scoliosis.
While this may sound disheartening, it doesn’t mean that people with scoliosis have to avoid the gym altogether. In fact, those with scoliosis can benefit immensely from safe weight training with the proper precautions:
- Be mindful of your form.
- Don’t overload on weight.
- Listen to your body—stop or lighten weight if you hurt.
- Avoid exercises that place extreme stress on the spine, such as deadlifts or squats, unless you are absolutely sure that you can handle them.
- Work with a chiropractor and/or trainer to ensure you are maintaining proper form.
Furthermore, many exercises can directly benefit a scoliotic spine because they help to stabilize the spine and core.
Such exercises include:
- Side planks
- Bird dogs
- Palloff press
- Dead hangs
These exercises can be great at helping your body more easily resist the compressive force of other exercises, making your gym trips a bit safer. However, there is always going to be the risk of injury when lifting weights, even for those who don’t have scoliosis.
The most important thing is to be cognizant of your body. If you’re feeling problems that extend beyond typical gym soreness, this is a clear indicator that something is off. Either you are using too much weight or your form is off. The latter is crucial because unnatural spinal curvature will affect your form.
How Chiropractic Care Can Help Weight Training With Scoliosis
Because of the way scoliosis affects your spine’s curvature, alignment, and form when weight training, chiropractic care that addresses these spinal irregularities can be hugely beneficial if you’re weight training with scoliosis.
The first step is to analyze your spine’s curvature to understand its current position and how it’s affecting your body. This way, more targeted corrective posture exercises and treatments can be utilized to make you a better weightlifter and keep your gym trips safe.
Elongation training that uses exercises to oppose the compressive force of weight training can help alleviate pain and pressure while also enhancing your form and may even reduce your scoliosis. A chiropractor trained in scoliosis corrective exercises will guide you through phases of progression with elongation exercises.
|Phase 1||Phase 2||Phase 3||Phase 4|
|Start with making sure your body can maintain position with just your body weight.||Progress to doing exercises such as lunges or squats if you can maintain your body weight.||Add low levels of weight to the exercises when you can do them with your body weight.||Progressively add weights as your training continues.|
Additionally, a chiropractor can work with you through your regular exercises to ensure that you are maintaining proper form, as this is crucial to preventing injury.
Finally, chiropractic care can help patients with scoliosis manage their symptoms as a whole. Whether you’re dealing with aches and pain or numbness and tingling, the most effective chiropractic treatment options can alleviate symptoms and help slow or prevent further progression of scoliosis.
Chiropractic BioPhysics® Makes Weight Training with Scoliosis Safer
Weight training with scoliosis can be safe when the proper precautions and treatments are utilized; however, this will always depend on the curvature of the spine. Scoliosis affects every person uniquely, and what is effective for one person could be ineffective or detrimental to another.
The team at PostureWorks understands this, which is why we use Chiropractic BioPhysics® to properly assess your medical history and unique spinal curvature. Using the information from our analysis, we can craft a non-invasive treatment plan tailored to you and your needs that incorporates a variety of treatments including postural exercises, neuromuscular education, spinal traction, and chiropractic adjustments.
We also work with you over time to make certain that you are building and practicing the best form possible. That way, you will not only be safe in the gym but become better at weight training.
Contact us today to learn more about weight training with scoliosis or to schedule your appointment with PostureWorks.
Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health and optimal function. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive.