The CLEAR Scoliosis Institute believes that participation in sports and physical activities plays an important role in developing physical, intellectual, and social well-being in adolescents. It is the goal of the CLEAR Scoliosis Institute and CLEAR-certified doctors of chiropractic to support adolescents in encouraging healthy and safe participation in these activities.

Most sports and activities will not have a negative effect upon the spine, and should be encouraged. The best activities for a person with scoliosis to participate in are swimming (with the exception of the butterfly stroke), diving, cycling (not off-road), walking, hiking, and sprinting (avoid long-distance running), aerobics (such as dance, color guard, yoga, and flexibility training), and gliding-type activities such as cross-country skiing and ellipticals (Nordic track, Gazelle edge, and similar exercise machines). Short-term, high-intensity exercise (burst training) is usually preferable to endurance training.

Swimming is by far the best activity for an individual with scoliosis. The simulated weightless environment reduces the effect of gravity and compression upon the spine, which improves the health of the spinal discs. Furthermore, swimming utilizes more of the body’s muscles, and in a more balanced and symmetrical fashion, than any other activity.

Collision sports are the most likely to injure the spine or reduce the effectiveness of treatment, and should be avoided if possible, or at the very least, limited or restricted. Individuals with scoliosis participating in these activities should realize that, by doing so, they are placing themselves at greater risk for injury, and increasing the chances that their scoliosis will worsen. Collision-type sports include football, hockey, rugby, full-contact martial arts, cheerleading (when it involves tosses and flips), gymnastics, pole vaulting, and lacrosse.

Sports that involve a great deal of rotation, or are primarily done with one hand, may have the potential of worsening certain types of curves. Examples of these activities include golf, tennis, bowling, shot put or javelin, and playing string or wind instruments such as flute, guitar, or violin. It is important to consult with your doctor to determine if any of these activities could be placing your spine at risk, based upon your scoliosis curve pattern.

Some activities that involve repetitive shocks or compressive forces to the spine could potentially be harmful, and need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Examples of these activities are long-distance running, horseback riding, off-road cycling, triple or long jump, weight lifting, and marching band.

Exercises which compromise the good curves of the spine, such sit-ups, push-ups, and pull-ups, may need to be replaced with similar exercises that engage the same muscles but do not have the same negative effect upon the cervical and lumbar lordosis, and the thoracic kyphosis.

The patient should always avoid participation in any activities which cause or increase pain or other symptoms.

Please note that patients must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis; certain sports or activities which may be permissible in one individual may be restricted or limited in another.