cardio for scoliosis

Scoliosis is defined as a lateral curvature of the spine. A normal spine curves inward in the lower back and outward in the thoracic region in the mid back. When the curvature begins to develop laterally, it can affect muscles, nerves, other bones, and even organs.

The most noticeable symptoms of scoliosis are: 1) shoulders and/or pelvis of uneven height and 2) one shoulder that sticks out more than the other. The possible complications of scoliosis are varied, but not serious in the vast majority of cases. As the spine bends to the sides, the vertebrae lean into the curves and the discs between them experience uneven pressure. This leaves people with scoliosis susceptible to early disc degeneration. Some people may have mild respiratory complications, as a curve in the thoracic spine affects the position of the ribs.

Many people do not experience muscle pain from scoliosis because the condition develops in childhood and the body grows to adapt to it. Disc-related pain is the biggest concern for people with scoliosis who want to maintain a high level of activity.

Cardiovascular exercise is an essential component of a healthy life. Keeping the heart and lungs in optimal physical condition allows large volumes of oxygen-rich blood to flow to the body’s tissues, keeping them healthy and strong. People with scoliosis may find this type of exercise difficult, as the spine is a high-impact area.

Common forms of cardio, like running and biking, can be painful for people with scoliosis. When running, the body transfers forces to the ground, which corresponds to a force on the body. The spine experiences a significant amount of compression when running, which could be detrimental to people with angled vertebrae. The same is true when riding a bike; each irregularity in the ground shakes the spine.

Cardiovascular exercise is not out of the realm of possibility for people with scoliosis. Since the curved spine is sensitive to jolts, forms of exercise that keep the heart rate up without loading the spine are ideal. The following are considered safe cardiovascular exercises for scoliosis:

1. Water aerobics: Exercising in the water is ideal for anyone with back pain and spinal problems; the water takes the weight of your body, leaving your spine unloaded. It is also ideal for both bodybuilding and cardiovascular training, since the density of the water resists the movement of the body. This keeps your muscles, heart, and lungs working hard. Swimming is the most common aquatic exercise, but water aerobics classes offer more varied workouts.

2. Elliptical Training: Elliptical machines provide the benefits of running without the jarring effects. This machine allows you to glide instead of run, freeing up your spine.

3. Climbing Machines – These machines allow you to climb as if you were climbing stairs, but with less force transferred through your feet to the rest of your body.

4. Walking: This low-intensity exercise is ideal for those who want to maintain a healthy body. However, it may not satisfy those looking for an intense workout.

If any of the above cause you pain, you may just be pushing yourself too hard. Start slow and work your way up to more intense workouts. Cardio is essential for people with scoliosis. Knowing which exercises will benefit you and which will hurt you is one of the most important components of back pain management. See for a list of exercises to avoid.

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