Exercises for Scoliosis in Adults

upword and downword dog

Exercises for Scoliosis in Adults: Scoliosis refers to a bending of the spine or spinal curvature that deviates from the normal postural position of the spine. It can arise due to many reasons. Some of the reasons that Scoliosis may occur may be due to hereditary factors, postural problems, spinal diseases or injuries, surgeries, head injuries, or problems with the foot (such as uneven arches leading to postural problems) or problems with the knee. One of the things that must be kept in mind about Scoliosis is that not every condition is similar – it varies greatly depending on the extent of the curvature of the spine. It is not always possible to check whether someone has Scoliosis just by looking at them; it is usually necessary to study the spine through imaging to determine whether an individual is suffering from Scoliosis. If you believe that you might be suffering from Scoliosis, contact your physician to determine what your options are. 

Usually, for moderate Scoliosis or severe Scoliosis, invasive interventions such as surgeries are suggested. However, for minor Scoliosis or mild Scoliosis, a host of other options are available, which might even work for people with progressive Scoliosis depending on various factors. Rocky Snyder, a trainer from California suggests various exercises and stretches to help people with Scoliosis to prevent further progression, improve the posture, and improve flexibility. 

One of the things to understand about the condition is that the spine of people without Scoliosis is different from the spines of people afflicted with the condition. Normal spines can move from one side to another and then revert to its resting position, but for an individual affected with Scoliosis, the spine does not revert to the normal resting position and instead tends to bend or curve abnormally. This is what usually leads to pain.

Scoliosis in Adults Exercises:

Two Re-Educational Stretches

There are two approaches to stretching that can help people with Scoliosis. Both these approaches are opposite to each other.

  • The first stretch involves stretching towards the direction of the curvature of the spine. For instance, if your curvature or Scoliosis is towards the right-hand side of your body, you stretch your body further to the right to cause your spine to decompress and become shorter. It is sort of tensing the spine towards the direction that it is already bending it to make it straighter. The idea is to stretch the spine beyond the position in which it is already bending to take advantage of the pullback.
  • The second stretch is sort of like stretching an elastic band. It involves stretching in the opposite direction of the curvature of the spine. For instance, if your curvature or Scoliosis is towards the right-hand side of your body, you stretch your body to the left-hand side to cause your spine to reset itself to the centre. Once you stretch your body to the opposite side of the curvature of the spine, it comes back to the centre due to the opposite force applied to it. 

Three exercises for Scoliosis

Here are some exercises with pictures attached to them to understand better and those with Scoliosis can perform to make their condition better. This may improve the curvature of the spine, prevent further progression of the condition, or improve the nerve pain associated with Scoliosis. However, if you have already been diagnosed with Scoliosis or suspect that you may be suffering from the condition, it is recommended that you consult your physician before starting on any exercise program to ensure that it does not adversely impact your condition. 

Before performing these exercises, it may be helpful to determine which is the longer side of your body if you are unsure as to which side it is. Lie down on your back and the side that is longer (take visual cues such as a camera or the help of another person if required) is the longer side of your body. 

Step Down and one-arm reach

step down and one arm reach exercise

  • Perform this exercise on the side of your body that is longer. You can determine which side is longer based on a visual when you are laying down on your back. 
  • Pick up a small box or a stand that you can stand on, that is stable, and that can bear your weight comfortably. Stepping stools made for this purpose are usually ideal. 
  • Place one leg on the stepping platform and lower the other leg onto the floor. As you are doing this action, raise the arm that is on the side of the lowered leg and reach up into the sky (i.e., lower left foot – raise left arm). 
  • While reaching to the sky, stretch as high as you possibly can. A good trick may be to imagine that you are reaching for fruit on an imaginary tree branch. 
  • Usually, about 2 or 3 sets of about 5 to 10 repetitions are ideal. Perform this exercise on the shorter side of your body only, and do not perform it on the longer side.

Upward and Downward Dog

upword and downword dog

  • Go into a prone plank position and stretch your arms ahead in front of you. Once you have done this, raise your hips as far high up as you possibly can. 
  • Do this for about 2 seconds and bring your hips back down as far as possible without it paining you. 
  • Usually, about 2 or 3 sets of about 5 to 10 repetitions are ideal.

Split Stance with Arm Reach

split stance with arm reach

  • This is performed by taking your longer leg and keeping your trunk straight and upright. 
  • Shift your mass forwards and backwards, allowing the knee of your longer leg to bend as you perform this movement. 
  • As the knee bends and as you move forward, raise the opposite arm of your longer leg (for instance, if your left leg is the longer leg, lift your right arm). You are required to reach up as high as possible, similar to the first exercise. A helpful trick is to imagine you are reaching for something beyond your reaches such as a tree branch or a shelf that you cannot reach. 
  • While the arm is stretching upwards, try and get your other arm to reach up with the palm. This, if done correctly, will result in your trunk or the midsection of your body turning towards the direction of your longer leg or the leg that you have placed forward. 
  • Usually, about 2 or 3 sets of about 5 to 10 repetitions are ideal. Perform this exercise on the said side of the body only. 

Types of Scoliosis

There are different types of Scoliosis, as well as different degrees of Scoliosis. Depending on the extent and the gravity of your condition, a treatment plan may be discussed. Usually, for those with minor Scoliosis, physical therapy and exercises are suggested to treat the conditions and the symptoms of Scoliosis which include a variety of exercises, stretching, aqua therapy, etc. However, for those with more serious types of Scoliosis, a more radical intervention may be required, such as in the form of surgery or otherwise. 

One of the things to keep in mind is that mild Scoliosis rarely requires radical intervention – in fact, in most people, it is not even apparently visible without imaging scans such as MRIs! Mild Scoliosis usually refers to a condition wherein the spinal curvature has not bent beyond 20 degrees. It is extremely treatable with retraining and physical therapy in most cases. 

While it is possible to treat moderate or severe Scoliosis with physiotherapy or exercises, a more radical approach such as the use of braces to correct the posture of the spine is usually encouraged. Moderate Scoliosis refers to a spinal bend of about 40 to 45 degrees. When it comes to severe Scoliosis, surgery may be required, especially if it is progressive or degenerative. 

Managing your Scoliosis 

As it has already been stated, the treatment options for Scoliosis depend on a variety of factors such as whether your Scoliosis is mild, moderate, or severe. For those with mild Scoliosis, exercises, aqua-therapy, massages, yoga, and other forms of stretching might be ideal options. For those with moderate Scoliosis, the aforementioned treatment options are still viable, but an additional requirement of an implement such as a brace; whether it is required to be worn only during the night or for day time use as well can be determined on a case to case basis. 

For those with severe Scoliosis, a more radical intervention might be prescribed in the form of surgery. Usually, surgeries with rods and screws are recommended to return the spine to the normal position. 

Some of the most common factors affecting the extent of the condition include the shape of the spine, what your height is, whether you have suffered any previous injuries, what the extent of progression is, and when you have been diagnosed. 


Pain from Scoliosis can be either due to the compression of the spine or due to compression of nerves from the bending of the spine. In some extreme cases, Scoliosis can also cause damage to organs if the spine ends up pressing on them. 

As it has been stated, while exercise, physical therapies, and other sorts of non-invasive interventions may be effective for mild and moderate Scoliosis, severe Scoliosis may require more radical treatments. For those with moderate Scoliosis, braces are ideal since they help the spine to return to its natural position without requiring surgery. 

It is extremely important to remember that while it might seem ideal to quickly embark on an exercise regimen to correct your Scoliosis, it must be done only after the consultation and approval of a trained physician. Ensure that you take the input of your doctor before diagnoses and also before starting on any exercise or physical therapy plan for your Scoliosis.