There are some different schools of thought when it comes to exercise for scoliosis.
Yoga appears to be a widely acceptable form of exercise for people with scoliosis. Overall there is an advantage in building core muscles to support better posture. However, be wise and practice with caution. Realize that yoga was not developed or intended to work with the scoliotic spine. What does this mean? There are about a dozen different positions that should be avoided when practicing. Seeking a yoga teacher/center that has experience and knowledge on scoliosis and yoga is key.
Swimming is another widely acceptable form of exercise for people with scoliosis. While, swimming may be helpful for adults with scoliosis, it may be detrimental for children with scoliosis especially if participating in competitive swimming. In an adult the spine has reached its full growth potential which means any change in curve will be generally slow. In this case, swimming may help strengthen the muscles and can be helpful with curve stabilization and pain reduction.
With children the curve is progressing very fast and could get out of control in a very short period of time. The concern over competitive swimming is that it can cause the lateral curvature (side view) of the thoracic spine to become less curved or hypokyphotic (more straight). If one of the dimensions is driven out of alignment then it will cause an existing scoliosis to progress.
Scoliosis BootCamp (BC) and Early Stage Scoliosis Intervention (ESSI) use an exercise based program that is being recommend by many doctors across the world. The big difference with this program as opposed to just doing a sport as mentioned above is that it is geared towards scoliosis and performed under the supervision of doctors dedicated to the treatment of scoliosis. Keep in mind scoliosis comes in different curve types and sizes. It is important to know the curve type and understand the curve type to treat it effectively. If not, the treatment that you receive could make the curve worse.
What is good for one curve type is bad for another. BC and ESSI use Neuro muscular re-education. This is different than regular exercise in that it works with retraining the brain on correct movement patterns and posture. It takes about 3,500 repetitions before something becomes engrained in the body. The goal of BC and ESSI is to figure out what specific treatment will be necessary for the next few years while your child is growing to work with reducing the curve not just stabilizing it.
The program usually starts as a one week course of treatment. After the treatment has completed, typically kids will spend anywhere from 20 min to 1 hour a day doing specific neuro muscular exercises each day to work on the brain re-mapping. The children may then visit an office every 3 to 12 months depending on the severity and age of the child.
Written by Dr. Brian T Dovorany, developer of the TorsoTrainer™ and Scoliosis Cantilever™ designed to reduce and stabilize idiopathic scoliosis through autonomic muscle recruitment.