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March 19, 2017 9:19 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have tips for making permanent moderate scoliosis more bearable?

Details: I have scoliosis and it means that one side of my upper back and my lumbar spine sometimes feels sore? And sometimes when I breathe sometimes I feel like my lung wants to expand but my ribcage won't let it??

Does anyone here have any tips on making my experience with a scoliotic spine more comfortable in the long term?
- Posture tips
- Bras/backpacks that are better for the spine
- Do you ever go to a chiropractor?
- Do you do pilates? If so how often? And how do you know that they are strengthening/stretching the right side of your back?
- Have you ever taken glucosamine/calcium/any other supplements? Did they do anything useful?
- Any/all spine-care tips welcome!

Thank you!
posted by Crookshanks_Meow to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have a mild scoliosis, and a history of back pain / tightness challenges. Of the many various things I've tried, two which have had the most reliable benefits are: Magnesium supplements, and back stretching and strengthening. IANAD and I've read that magnesium supplementation can mess with calcium absorption, so if you're a lady-person you probably need to be careful of that, talk to your Dr, do more research, etc.

In general, anything that gets you moving more and gets muscles on BOTH sides of your back is helpful. I don't think focusing on just one side would be recommended. Whenever I go to get a m massage or acupuncture with complaints of pain on my right side (and I ONLY feel pain/discomfort on the right), the practitioner almost always finds as much if not more tension on the left. Your back back is a complex system of muscles working together to hold your spine in position (to protect the nerves inside the column). They all need to be loose, strong, able to circulate blood well, etc.

- being careful to not sit for too long at a spell has been very helpful to me. The degree to which a sedentary lifestyle can strain a back cannot be overstated.
- get the hell rid of shoulder bags or anything that doesn't balance weight evenly across your shoulders. IIRC, the recommendations of wearing backpack are: one that keeps the weight close to your back, doesn't "pull down", keeps things high, so that your upper back is participating in the carriage of weight, not leaving it all for your shoulders/trapezius.

Good luck!
posted by armoir from antproof case at 9:44 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]

I had surgery for severe scoliosis when I was 12, which was at least half a lifetime ago. :)
Physiotherapist gave me exercises to do- can you go see one?
I also found lying on the floor on my back helpful to ease the pain.
I also lock my hands behind my back, bend forward and lift my arms up, elbows straight. This helps stretch something in my shoulders.

I had a top curve of 57 degrees and now sport two titanium rods on a fused spine, and don't really notice it anymore.

Two straps on back pack, definitely.
posted by freethefeet at 11:32 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]

Pilates is tough for me but yoga helps when I actually do it. There are little heart shaped plastic things that I use to hold the straps of my bra centered towards the middle of my back and sometimes that helps remind me to sit up straighter. You could also use a back brace but they get uncomfortable after a while.

I did see a chiropractor when I was younger but haven't in years. Sitting or lying down for long periods of time is difficult so I try to take frequent breaks. Posture is key.
posted by lunastellasol at 2:40 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]

Mrs S has this and so far as I can see

In general, anything that gets you moving more and gets muscles on BOTH sides of your back is helpful.

is exactly right.
posted by Segundus at 3:47 AM on March 20 [4 favorites]

Physical therapy. My friend found out she had scoliosis around 30 and she hated physical therapy at first but it helped her pain immensely long term.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 4:04 AM on March 20 [4 favorites]

Mine is mild. Physical therapy did wonders, and now if my back starts acting up again, I have the exercises to go back to and it usually resolves.

Also, I don't wear a backpack anymore; if for some reason it's unavoidable, sternum strap was quite helpful for me (but really better not to wear one at all).

Oh, also, not sitting with someone close to my right side; for me this means making sure I get a window or aisle seat on planes (with no one to my right). If you figure out a succinct way of saying this to airline staff let me know (they understand aisle v. window, but not "right side empty").
posted by nat at 4:59 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

I don't have scoliosis so take this with the appropriate pinch of salt, but for muscle tightness in my back (I get this a lot in the upper left) the double lacrosse ball roller has been a thing of wonder. If you google you can find specific physio exercises using it which is a good way to start. Once you are used to it you can kind of just roll around on it to hit the knots.
posted by crocomancer at 5:23 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

My son has mild-to-moderate scoliosis and one thing I haven't seen mentioned above is a really good mattress and/or mattress pad. He's got a fantastic, thick, temperpedic-ish mattress pad that has changed his life because he can actually get comfortable now and get real sleep.
posted by cooker girl at 8:16 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

Definitely physical therapy. Ask around to get a good referral. They'll give you strengthening and stretching exercises and possibly do manual therapy (massage-type work to loosen the muscles). They may be able to help you figure out what type of support/pillows/etc. you need in bed, at your desk, in your car, etc. And the standard recommendation for anyone with back problems is to use an extra pillow at your knees to take pressure off your back/hips. If you're a back sleeper, it goes under your knees; if you're a side sleeper, it goes between your knees.

I have a host of spinal issues (scoliosis is the least of my problems), so I don't use a backpack anymore. I use a rolly bag (I think "wheeled briefcase" is the term you'll want to look for). The one that I have is discontinued but there are a ton out there. I resisted for a long time because I didn't want to be uncool, but the relief was enormous and immediate.
posted by radioamy at 9:48 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

Oh! I can help with this one. I don't know the degree of my curve, but the muscle under my left shoulderbade has been seized up and painful for decades, especially after a long walk or raking leaves or what have you. I've done chiropractic, physical therapy and various therapeutic massages, and nothing helps like the stretch at the 3 minute mark in this video: How to Correct a Scoliosis With Exercise and Stretching

I just do it when the muscle's giving me trouble, and the release is quick and wonderful. I hope it works for you.

Around the five minute mark is a more structural stretch involving the vertebrae-- that one made me nervous but that's just me.
posted by the_dusty at 9:59 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

I have a moderate curve and physical therapy was a life changer for me; I had tried yoga and Pilates and foam rollers and special stretches for years, but eight weeks of targeted PT from a therapist who specialized in spine rehab and then a faithful adherence to the daily exercises and minor lifestyle changes they taught me have all but eliminated my nagging back pain. Walking 30 minutes every day helps too, and using a standing desk is more comfortable for me than sitting because it's easy to change position. Good luck; I hope you find some relief.
posted by Tuba Toothpaste at 8:44 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]

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