Exercises for Scoliosis of the Spine

Exercises for Scoliosis are crucial as this is an abnormal curvature of the spine that can lead to pain and weakness. Don't do anything strenuous though, but do remain active as it contributes to its reversal. Continue reading to find out what are the best activities to practice.
Exercises for Scoliosis of the Spine

Last update: 30 May, 2022

Not all exercises are suitable for people with scoliosis. Part of the treatment consists of physical activity but it should be moderate and adapted to the specific needs of each person. Keep in mind it’s better to have professional supervision whenever possible.

Scoliosis is a lateral curve of the spine that disrupts body posture. It occurs frequently during the growth period, before puberty. However, it can also affect adults, especially women.

According to information in the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), the curvature is usually C- or S-shaped and can occur on both sides or different places in the spine. You may wonder, how can one exercise for it in the gym? Well, continue reading to find out.

Exercises you can do at the gym if you have scoliosis

Any form of physical activity that requires too much effort has likely already been advised against if you have scoliosis. However, it doesn’t mean you have to fall into a sedentary lifestyle or give up the gym.
As compiled by an article by the Cochrane library, there are specific exercises that can help people with scoliosis. The best part is you can practice them at home and at the gym.

These exercises help strengthen the muscles that surround the spine and whose function is to stabilize the body. In turn, they mitigate the symptoms of this condition, such as the sensation of pressure and pain. Are you ready to start?

This may interest you: Four Stretches that will Help Correct Your Posture

1. Pelvic lift

The pelvic lift, also known as a “bridge,” is one of the exercises you can do at the gym if you have scoliosis. It doesn’t require specific machines and you can adjust its intensity according to your physical capacity.
A study published in The Journal of Physical Therapy Science determined its practice helps strengthen the abdominal muscles and, in turn, contributes to the rehabilitation of patients with trunk instability and low back pain.

How to do it

  • Firstly, lie on your back, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
  • Next, tighten your abs and make sure to keep your back flat on the floor
  • Raise your pelvis toward the ceiling and hold for 5 seconds
  • Then return to the ground and do 2 sets of 10 repetitions
A woman doing exercises for scoliosis.
The bridge is useful for scoliosis and easy to do at home.

2. Arm and leg raises

Lumbar strengthening exercises are ideal for the rehabilitation of people with scoliosis. So you can include arm and leg lifts in your exercise routine if you have this condition.

According to a study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, this activity is useful for strengthening the stabilizing muscles of the lumbar spine. Also, it seems to be good as an adjunct to reduce spinal fatigue.

How to do it

  • Firstly, lie down facing the floor
  • Then, extend your arms over your head and keep your palms flat on the ground
  • Make sure your legs are straight and, starting from this position, lift one of your arms off the ground. Simultaneously lift your opposite leg
  • Hold the pose for 1 or 2 full breaths, lower yourself to the floor and repeat the exercise with the opposite arm and leg
  • Do about 15 reps on each side
A woman exercising.
The exercise called “superman” is good for strengthening the lower back muscles.

3. Kettlebell weight lifting

There’s a tool known as the kettlebell at most gyms and it’s become popular due to the many health benefits it brings. In particular, it’s good for working lats and abs muscles that help stabilize the body.

Its basic movements, such as the swing, snatch, and clean, involve the use of various muscle groups. In turn, it helps with coordination and increases resistance and balance. This is really good for people with scoliosis.

How to do it

These weights are available in various sizes. Ideally, you shouldn’t exceed 20 pounds if you have scoliosis. In fact, it’s best to consult a professional, as the weight you can carry may vary depending on your particular case.

  • This classic exercise requires a single kettlebell. Place it between your knees and then bring it over your head in one movement. Be sure to keep your back straight
  • Do about 10 or 12 repetitions, in 2 sets
A person lifting weights.
The kettlebell weight works your lats and abs. These muscles play a key role in spinal stability.

4. Abdominal press

Working the core, that is, the area that covers the entire abdominal region and the lower part of the back promotes the rehabilitation of patients with a spinal deviation. The abdominal press is an exercise that fulfills this function; in fact, it helps improve posture.

How to do it

  • Firstly, lie on your back, with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.
  • Keep your back in a neutral position so you don’t feel the tension.
  • Then lift both lower legs to a 90-degree angle.
  • Now use your hands to push your knees down while contracting your abdominal muscles. In turn, push your knees into your hands, so that you do a static exercise. Simply put, neither the legs nor the arms should be moving when you press; they only need to force each other to tighten the abdomen
  • Hold for 3 full breaths and relax.
  • Then do 2 sets of 10 reps each.
Two women exercising.
The abdominal press exercise is also useful for scoliosis and you can do repetitive sets.

Don’t miss Four Basic Exercises to Prevent Scoliosis

5. Short crunches with a yoga ball

This exercise strengthens the abdominal and low back muscles. Thus, it’s one of those exercises you can practice if the shape of your spine is off.

How to do it

  • Firstly, lie on your back on the yoga ball
  • Secondly, make sure the ball is under your back and your feet are on the ground, a hip-width apart
  • Put your hands behind your head and, from this position, squeeze your glutes, and raise your upper body
  • Then, tuck your chin toward your chest, lower with a smooth motion, and repeat
  • Do 2 sets of 15 reps
A woman exercising on a yoga ball.
The short abs are done with the Pilates ball, which, if you have it in your home, will be of great help.

Exercises that worsen scoliosis

While the above exercises can improve scoliosis, there are other activities that increase the risk of secondary injuries or more severe symptoms. Among them:

  • Hockey
  • Soccer and football
  • Gymnastics and ballet
  • Bouncing on a trampoline
  • Long-distance running on hard surfaces
  • Heavy weight lifting (bodybuilding)
  • Horseback riding

Professional supervision is important when doing exercises for scoliosis

The symptoms of scoliosis vary from patient to patient. Therefore, consult your doctor if you think you might have this condition. Know that symptoms often improve with self-care measures and exercise. However, some cases require other treatment, such as physiotherapy, medication, and surgery.

Finally, the practice of moderate exercise is advised as part of a rehabilitation process. Any activities that strengthen the core are usually the most suitable in these cases. In any case, seek advice from a professional trainer at the gym. This is because the poor execution of any exercises can be counterproductive.

Thanks for reading.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Sengupta DK, Webb JK. Scoliosis – The current concepts. Indian J Orthop. 2010;44(1):5-8. doi:10.4103/0019-5413.58600
  • ¿Qué es la escoliosis?. (2020). Instituto Nacional de Artritis y Enfermedades Musculoesqueléticas y de la Piel ( NIAMS ). Recuperado el 17 de julio de 2020 de https://www.niams.nih.gov/es/informacion-de-salud/escoliosis
  • Romano M, Minozzi S, Bettany-Saltikov J, Zaina F, Chockalingam N, Kotwicki T, Maier-Hennes A, Negrini S. Exercises for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD007837. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007837.pub2
  • Ko JY, Suh JH, Kim H, Ryu JS. Proposal of a new exercise protocol for idiopathic scoliosis: A preliminary study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;97(49):e13336. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000013336
  • Gong W. The effects of the continuous bridge exercise on the thickness of abdominal muscles in normal adults. J Phys Ther Sci. 2018;30(7):921-925. doi:10.1589/jpts.30.921
  • Hwang YI, Park DJ. Comparison of lumbar multifidus thickness and perceived exertion during graded superman exercises with or without an abdominal drawing-in maneuver in young adults. J Exerc Rehabil. 2018;14(4):628-632. Published 2018 Aug 24. doi:10.12965/jer.1836296.148
  • Meigh NJ, Keogh JWL, Schram B, Hing WA. Kettlebell training in clinical practice: a scoping review. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2019;11:19. Published 2019 Sep 3. doi:10.1186/s13102-019-0130-z
  • Oliver GD, Dwelly PM, Sarantis ND, Helmer RA, Bonacci JA. Muscle activation of different core exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(11):3069-3074. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181d321da
  • Juan-Recio C, López-Vivancos A, Moya M, Sarabia JM, Vera-Garcia FJ. Short-term effect of crunch exercise frequency on abdominal muscle endurance. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2015;55(4):280-289.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.