Swimming and Scoliosis, a Natural Treatment Approach

Written by: Massage Therapy Blog Date of published: .

What is Scoliosis?

This is the first question that will come to mind. Scoliosis is something we hear about, but don’t get the details to understand. Scoliosis is basically characterized by an abnormal S or C shaped curve in the spine that can become a constant source of pain.

There two types of Scoliosis:  Structural and Functional (or non-structural). A Structural curve is considered to be a permanent change in the shape of bones and a Functional (non-structural) curve is caused by muscle imbalance.  Functional curves can be temporary and disappear over time, or they can become chronic and actually cause Structural changes.

In general, the onset of the disease can appear at any age. But the beginnings of Scoliosis can often be observed in teens just before hitting puberty, subsequently in the age group of 10 – 12 years.

Though the exact reason for the abnormal change in shape is unknown, a study of multiple past cases of Scoliosis indicate the disease could be related to birth defects, imbalance of speed of growth of bones, and poor postural habits. Generally, once scoliosis appears, it never goes away completely, and over time, often progresses. Some people become very twisted, becoming disfigured and disabled by the time they reach older ages.  The speed and extent of the body’s changes can be controlled somewhat by lifestyle choices such as managing weight, maintaining strong muscles, and doing movements opposite of the directions of the curves that cultivate symmetry.


                                                               Don’t let scoliosis take you down

 

Symptoms:


The possible symptoms vary in conjunction with the type and severity of Scoliosis, though the commonly observed symptoms associated with Scoliosis are:

  • Abnormal symmetry of one shoulder blades higher than the other.
  • Irregularity in the symmetry of the hips.
  • A rotating spine, which looks like one side of the back is larger than the other
  • Breathing problems resulting from reduced chest area leaving inappropriate area for expansion of lungs.
  • Severe back pain from muscle imbalance.

It is the muscle pain and fatigue from holding up a twisted body that plagues people the most. 

Possible ways of diagnosing Scoliosis

Diagnosis of scoliosis is initiated with a physical examination by a specialist who would be looking for these primary signs:

  1. Checking spine curvature
  2. Looking for any abnormal symmetry between your shoulder and waist areas
  3. Checking for curvatures in upper and lower back upon bending forward

Physical examination for Scoliosis is then followed by Imaging tests in order to dig further into the abnormalities. Imaging tests that can assist with diagnosis include:

  1. X-ray: This works by using a controlled amount of radiation for creating a pictorial representation of the spine.
  2. Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI): MRI uses magnetic and radio waves to create a detailed image of your bones and the surrounding tissues.
  3. CT Scan: This creates a 3-D imagery of the body by taking X-rays from multiple angles.
  4. Bone Scan: This technique uses a radioactive solution that is injected in the blood-stream of the patient which concentrates in the areas of higher circulation and therefore highlights abnormalities with the spine.

 

Can scoliosis be treated? What can you do and is prevention at all an option?

Surgical procedures usually include a long rods or shorter cages implanted and screwed into the bones of the spine that will hold them straight. While these implants do improve posture, they also significantly limit movement.  But only in the case of extreme severity is surgery considered an option For mild cases, it is the muscles that are the key. The muscles can control the alignment of the bones, and strengthening them can relieve pain and fatigue.  The alternative remedies for reducing back pain resulting from scoliosis include therapeutic exercise, joint mobilization, and wearing a supportive brace.

An inspirational example of achievement with Scoliosis management is Cai Lin Khoo. She is a two-time Olympic swimmer from Malaysia. She was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 8 as it ran in her family.  Prevention was not an option for her because an operation would pose a threat to her swimming career. As she pursued her dream of participating in the Olympics, she found that if she was persistent in her training activities and therapeutic exercises she could continue swimming and improving her times, getting stronger than her competitors. 

 

Cai Lin Khoo Image Via Khoo Cai Lin

 

Swimming- Can it help?

Swimming is a beneficial and recommended exercise for scoliosis because it helps increase the flexibility of the body. If you are looking for treating scoliosis naturally through exercises, swimming is one of the best-known exercises to start from. 

Surprising as it may sound, swimming is a powerfully therapeutic exercise for scoliosis patients, and can provide major relief. Many exercises such as weightlifting, increase the pressure on the spine and can increase pain as well.  But in what makes swimming special is that while swimming in water, there is no gravity effect on the body. Swimming also involves working out the muscles,which improves muscle endurance, circulation and flexibility. 

Swimming with proper technique encourages lengthening the body, and because it is a movement that is nearly equal on right and left, it supports a return to symmetry.  Many people have experienced that swimming can be an effective way towards naturally relieving scoliosis symptoms over time. 

Well, apart from working out the muscles, swimming also helps release stress and in case of scoliosis patients can effectively help minimize the chronic pain. Scoliosis patients can give rise to motivation and positivity through swimming and can attain a feeling of inner fulfillment.

Swimming – A natural exercise treating Scoliosis

 

What could be the challenges of swimming for a person suffering from Scoliosis?

Though swimming is a reliable remedy for treating the pain associated with scoliosis, whether a person suffering from the condition will be able to do it or not will depend entirely on the severity of the condition, and a person’s general fitness and mobility. Certain swimming strokes could be difficult for some scoliosis patients.  People who feel they have restricted movements and pain in the surrounding muscles can easily adjust their time in the water to doing gentle preparation exercises that are within their tolerance. Just being in a weightless environment of a pool is therapeutic by itself.

Are there other natural ways to reduce my scoliosis?:

Though swimming is a natural therapy for treating scoliosis, it is only one of the components of a good program that will help control and relieve back pain. Physical Therapy Exercises and Massage with Neuromuscular and Myofascial techniques are the other components.  Again, keep in mind that most people can not alter the curvature of the spine but they can help in making the muscles stronger and more flexible, thereby managing pain and reducing further asymmetry. .

To treat scoliosis back pain, the therapist will use myofascial, deep-tissue or assisted stretching techniques in order to restore your body’s balance. Exercises for scoliosis back pain will also bring length to the shorter lines of the body as well. Scoliosis prevention in this way works best  if the severity is from low to medium as it helps stop the further progression of the curvature of the spine. A good therapist will target the almost immobile parts of your spine and help restore movement.

When does natural treatment for scoliosis work best? 

Remember prevention means you can manage the curvature of your spine but you cannot completely stop the deformity from happening.  So if you are suffering from scoliosis take care of yourself and be prepared to visit an experienced massage therapist, or physical therapist and work your routine as per directions. 

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