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Useful Exercise & Stretches to Help Reduce Pain from Scoliosis

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is when the spine curves to the side. The spine can also twist at the same time. This twisting can pull the ribcage out of position which can cause significant pain and altered breathing patterns and significant muscle imbalances, resulting in static and dynamic postural dysfunction.

Scoliosis can affect people at different points in their lives. It can happen:

  • Before birth (congenital)

  • In young children (early onset),

  • In older children and teenagers (adolescent idiopathic)

  • As adults (degenerative or de novo).

In most cases the cause is unknown (idiopathic). Sometimes the scoliosis is because of a neuromuscular condition, such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy. Scoliosis can also develop as part of a syndrome, such as Marfan syndrome.

People living with scoliosis can find it hard and painful to do what ordinary people can. It is difficult for people to perform some physical activities due to the pain it produces.

Scoliosis is distinguished by an S or C-shaped curve in the spinal cord. Some curves are broader compared to the others. It can be corrected through surgery in moderate or severe cases. However, there are non-surgical treatments that can help to treat it, or in more severe cases, help to alleviate pain post surgery.

Scoliosis Exercise that you can do

Orthopaedic surgeons suggest that one of the best ways to treat scoliosis is through specific activities and exercises. Exercise is the best way to reinforce and level our physical posture. It can also avoid curvature on one side. But for people with scoliosis, choosing what kinds of exercise are necessary. It will help them avoid complications that too much physical movement can cause. Below are some scoliosis exercises that can help the body to strengthen its core, and some stretches to alleviate the discomfort associated with the shortening of some muscles.

Hip Roll and Bridge

This is an exercise that focuses on the pelvis area and core. First, you have to lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. If possible, place a yoga block or small pilates ball between your knees, and squeeze the inner thighs together. Place your hands to the side of your body with palm face down. Inhale. As you exhale, drawer your belly button down towards your spine, flattening the back. Now roll your pelvis. Imagine it is a bowl and you are slushing liquid around inside it, so you tuck the tail bone under, rounding the back, and then arch it, "tipping" the pelvis in the opposite direction. This may also be performed in a side to side action, rolling the pelvis from left to right. Repeat the rolling 20 times. This exercise helps improve your lower back, middle back, and upper back.

Once you have warmed up through the pelvis you might try the roll up to bridge as shown in the image above.

This is the easiest way to get your glutes firing as well as activating your core. The movement is small and targeted, so go slowly and you will feel your glutes "waking up."

Raise the hips, to the same height so you have a straight line from the shoulders (which should be nicely relaxed), through your hips and to your knees),

Hold the position, or perform gentle small pulses for 8 reps before lowering the hips back to the floor again. Repeat on each side 6-8 times.

Piriformis & Glute Stretch

Lie on your back with both legs in the air. Place your left ankle on your right thigh just above your knee. See the shape of the number four? It's there, just upside down.Clasp your hands around your left thigh and slowly pull your thigh toward your chest. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your left hip. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Alternatively, you might prefer the pigeon pose stretch.

Begin in a kneeling on all fours position

Straighten one leg out behind you, and draw the other leg across and in front of the mid line of your body.

Slide the hips backwards, and fold your upper body forwards and down towards the floor.

You should aim to keep the pelvis parallel to the floor.

Your general hip mobility will determine how far you are able to take this stretch, but it should be felt at the upper, outer side of your glutes of the forward leg.


Planking helps our core muscles. You have to lie down facing the floor. Bend your elbow, straighten up and do not bend your knees. Your toes will support your body while you are doing it. You might modify this exercise to begin with by placing the knees down on the floor, but be sure to maintain a flat straight back.

Hold the position for 5 seconds and then relax. Repeat the steps ten times. This exercise helps improve shoulders, biceps, upper back, lower back, and calves.

These different types of scoliosis exercises can aid build your core strength. It will also improve your balance and posture. Physical activity can help you as you go through scoliosis treatment programs. Nevertheless, it is still important to consult your doctor before trying any of the exercises

The Bird Dog Stretching

You might like to use a gym ball to perform this exercise, or you might simply kneel on the floor. If using a ball, lie face down with your tummy on it. Support your body with your toes while doing this so that you will not fall. Then lift your left leg and right hand up, hold it for 3-5 seconds, then put it down. Lift your right leg and left hand up; hold it for 3-5 seconds. Then put it down.

The Foam Roller Towel Stretch

Wrap a towel around a foam roller and lie on it width-wise across the exercise mat. Lie across the foam roller so that it is perpendicular to your body. It should rest in the space between your hip and the bottom of your rib cage. Your top leg should be straight and your bottom leg bent at the knee behind you. Stretch your upper arm out until your hand touches the floor.

Try to hold the pose for 20-30 seconds, and do 2-3 reps. You can do this exercise daily.

The Wall Angel

This is useful to gain mobility through the shoulders. Attempt the arm slide up the wall, while maintaining thoracic control and shoulder extension.

Stand with:

  • back against a wall

  • feet hip width apart

  • heels approximately 2 inches away from wall

  • feel bottom, some of the lower back and as much of thoracic (mid) spine against wall as possible

  • depress shoulders (shrug and lower them)

  • tuck chin in so head is against the wall

Take a breath in and out, focussing on breathing with the diaphragm* (place a hand on your stomach while breathing - if diaphragm breathing, your stomach should go in and out, rather than your chest)

Diaphragm breathing is an essential skill to practice as correct respiration is arguably the most important of all movement patterns.

Insufficient activity of the abdominal muscles results in a loss of diaphragmatic support for the spinal column. This can in turn negatively affect the stability of the lumbar spine during lifting or bending activities. Now bring your arms up to the side (abduct) to 90 degrees, and bend at the elbows. Try and maintain the contact of the thoracic spine with the wall as you bring the arms into flexion and abduction. Attempt to place the wrists and thumbs of both hands against the wall. Whilst maintaining this posture and with controlled diaphragm breathing; bend the knees to approximately 40 degrees, then come back to standing. Frequency: 3 Sets; 10 Reps Daily NB: If it is not possible to keep the thoracic spine against the wall, and/or cannot reach the wall with the wrists and thumbs, at a standing position, first aim to improve shoulder mobility and lumbar control by sliding arms up the wall above the head and back to shoulder height again.

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