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Can I Run or Jog With Scoliosis?

By Jim Thomas

The short answer is that jogging and running are fine for most people with scoliosis. In the words of the National Institute of Arthritis, "Exercise programs have not been shown to keep scoliosis from getting worse. But it is important for all people, including those with scoliosis, to exercise and remain physically fit. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, running, soccer, and gymnastics, helps keep bones strong."

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine. The spine bends sideways and twists. Usually the upper or lower back is twisted, but scoliosis can affect the neck in rare cases.

Eighty percent of scoliosis cases are idiopathic, which means the cause is unknown. But it appears that heredity is one factor, since scoliosis tends to run in families. Scoliosis often appears during the onset of puberty, and more females than males are affected.

Treatments for Scoliosis

According to the Mayo Clinic, most scoliosis cases are mild. Sometimes kids and teens with scoliosis wear a brace to keep curvature of the spine from getting worse until their bones have finished growing.

In severe cases, surgery may be required if more conservative treatments fail. Surgery, which requires spinal fusion, is quite extensive, but the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics reports that patients often can resume jogging four months after surgery.

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Scoliosis and Exercise

According to psychotherapist Li Feng Tian in the "Musculoskeletan Consumer Review," "One can usually participate in any type of exercises with scoliosis." If you have scoliosis, posture and muscle changes caused by the condition may restrict your movements to some extent. In rare cases, your endurance may be affected by reduced lung capacity. But Tian says curvature of the spine won't be worsened by exercise. And if running or jogging bothers you, back off for a few days. If it still bothers you, a muscle imbalance might have been aggravated, and it may be time to check in with a physical therapist.

Kids with Scoliosis

Most kids with scoliosis are encouraged to be physically active as well. A medical columnist at "Running Times" advised a 15 year old girl with scoliosis to stay on the cross country team, despite developing hip pain. The columnist suggested that the runner consult with a sports medicine doctor who could prescribe a physical therapy program, and perhaps a heel lift if one leg was longer than the other, which can be the cause or the result of scoliosis.

Considerations

While exercise, including running and jogging, is good for most people with scoliosis, it is also true that scoliosis can result in lower back problems. Physiotherapist Tian recommends swimming for those with scoliosis, which generally strengthens back muscles and strengthens breathing function at the same time. Swimming won't specifically reduce back pain caused by muscle imbalance, and it won't reduce curvature of the spine, but it is an excellent alternative to running or jogging if you are one of the people with scoliosis who can't run or jog without experiencing back pain.

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