Scoliosis is defined as a sideways curving of the spine. A normal spine curves inward in the lumbar region 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 severe in a vast majority of cases. As the spine bends sideways, vertebrae become tilted at the bends and the discs in between them experience uneven pressure. This leaves people with scoliosis susceptible to early disc degeneration. Some people may have mild breathing complications, since a curve in the thoracic spine affects the positioning of the ribs.
Many people do not experience muscular pain due to scoliosis, since the condition develops in childhood and the body grows to adapt to it. Disc-related pain is the greatest concern for people with scoliosis who wish to maintain a high level of activity.
Cardiovascular exercise is an essential component of a healthy life. Keeping the heart and lungs in peak 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, since the spine is a high-impact area.
Common forms of cardio, such as running and cycling, may be painful for those with scoliosis. When running, the body transfers forces to the ground, which reciprocates a force on the body. The spine experiences a significant amount of compression while running, which could be harmful to those with angled vertebrae. The same occurs when cycling; every irregularity in the ground jolts the spine.
Cardio exercise is not outside the realm of possibility for those with scoliosis. Since the curved spine is sensitive to jolting, forms of exercise that keep the heart rate up without loading the spine are ideal. The following are considered safe scoliosis cardio exercises:
1. Water Aerobics: Exercising in water is ideal for anyone with back pain and spinal problems; the water takes the weight of your body, leaving your spine unburdened. It is also ideal for both strength-building and cardiovascular training, since the density of the water resists your body’s movement. This keeps your muscles, heart and lungs working hard. Swimming is the most common water 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 rather than run, leaving your spine unburdened.
3. Stair Machines: These machines allow you to step as if walking up stairs, but with less force being transferred through your feet to the rest of your body.
4. Walking: This low-intensity exercise is ideal for those wishing to maintain a healthy body. It may not satisfy those looking for an intense workout, however.
If any of the above cause you pain, you may simply be pushing yourself too hard. Start slow and work your way up to more intense workouts. Cardio is essential for those with scoliosis. Knowing which exercises will benefit and which will harm you is the one of the most important components of back pain management. See http://www.livestrong.com/article/394848-taboo-exercises-for-scoliosis/ for a list of exercises to avoid.