Running with Scoliosis: My Top Tips

Running with Scoliosis

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Recently, I’ve been doing quite a bit of running. I completed my first Park Run in January and signed up to a few 10K races plus a 5K fun run this year.

So, should I be running with scoliosis?

The honest answer is I don’t really know.

I enjoy it, which is why I do it. I love the feeling I get after a run and the endorphins. It’s a great stress reliever and I love the fact that I can do it despite my scoliosis. I also love seeing myself improve and getting fitter and faster – especially because running is something I had always thought I wouldn’t be able to do post scoliosis surgery.

I do find running hard when I’m doing it but the sense of achievement I feel afterwards is addictive. Sometimes I worry that I’m putting pressure on the lower discs in my spine (that are unfused) by running. When I had my final post surgery checkup about a year after my surgery though, I asked my surgeon whether there was anything I can’t do. His answer was no – you can do anything. So that’s exactly what I do…!

I must admit I only started running a couple of years ago, which was 5 years after my scoliosis surgery. It did feel a bit strange at first and I had to gradually build up to running longer distances by mixing walking and running.


My top tips for running with scoliosis

I’m of the opinion that scoliosis shouldn’t stop anyone from running if they want to and feel able. However, scoliosis causes muscle in-balances, which can make those of us with scoliosis more prone to injury. I myself have injured my shoulder muscles as a result of running and as a result I’m learning to adapt my running and training regime to put less strain on my back.

These are a few tips I’ve learnt over the past couple of years running with scoliosis (post scoliosis surgery):


Don’t push yourself too hard

This is really important and I learnt this the hard way. It’s important to build up gradually – don’t try to run too far and too fast too soon. I injured my shoulder muscles by pushing myself too hard. I stupidly gave myself a few weeks to train for a 10K race having never ran in my life. Don’t do this!! If you are used to running, that’s different. But when you have scoliosis you need to be patient with yourself and pushing yourself could cause injury. Try a couch to 5K programme or mix running with walking to start with. Listen to your body and if your back starts hurting stop or take a rest.


Build up your strength

Having strong muscles is vital for running to prevent injury. Again, I learnt this the hard way and have always been afraid of weights etc in case I damage my back. This was the WRONG thing to do as it left me very weak and vulnerable to injury. I now know that it’s vital to complement running with strengthening exercises such as Pilates or any exercises focusing on the core muscles. I have been doing Body Pump classes for about 6 months now and am looking to start a class that just focuses on the core muscles soon. Exercises like The Plank are fantastic for building core strength.


Wear decent trainers

 

Decent trainers can make a HUGE difference to the impact on your spine and help to reduce back pain. I love Skechers memory foam trainers (I have a couple of pairs now) as they absorb the impact on your spine.


Make sure you stretch regularly

This is important for any runner but when you have scoliosis, the muscle in-balances can make your muscles feel extra tight. This is because one side often has to work harder than the other side and as a result the muscles become overworked and tired. I get really tight muscles down one side of my back due to this and a good stretch really helps. I really like the bottom to heels stretch and this Pilates for scoliosis book has some great stretches for scoliosis.


Take rest days and mix it up!

 

Make sure you rest in between runs. After a 5K or 10K run my lower back DOES hurt and I need a rest. I find if I run 30 or 40 minutes for say two days in a row, my back will start to hurt and my shoulder starts twinging. I’m not sure I could run every day for example. I think it’s the repetitiveness of running that my back muscles don’t like, as I injured my shoulder when I was running almost every day training for a 10K. So I now try to vary my cardio by mixing running with other exercises such as the cross trainer and spin classes.  I think it’s important to not overdo running and mix it in with other things to reduce the strain on your back muscles.


Don’t compare yourself to others

This is the crucial one! I am so guilty of this. I compare myself to everyone all the time. For example, there’s people who I go to the gym with who can run faster than me and I hate it. I wish I could run as fast as the people at Park Run who can finish a 5K in under 20 minutes. It’s important though to remember your limitations. Running with scoliosis doesn’t mean you can’t run as fast as others but you should pace yourself. And be proud of what you CAN do!

Running with Scoliosis

 

I personally find running fast very difficult and it feels more comfortable on my back when I am jogging at a gentle pace. When I try to go faster I end up hurting myself or feeling pain. Everyone’s different and I am just SO grateful that I can even run 5K, 10K etc, as I never thought it would even be possible.

The important thing when running with scoliosis is to start gradually and build strength in the back, core and legs which will help to build up speed and distance safely over time.


Do you have scoliosis and do any running? What are your experiences and have you got any tips? I would love to hear from you – let me know in the comments below 🙂

Louise x


Disclaimers:

This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing or starting a new fitness routine.

 I accept no responsibility or liability for any injuries caused directly or indirectly through the performing of the exercises described. If you feel any discomfort or pain during any exercise, stop immediately.

If you have recently had scoliosis surgery, speak to your Dr/physiotherapist in order to get tailored exercises for you while you recover. You will need to be very careful and it will probably be difficult to do anything other than walking and simple exercises for a while. (Remember NO bending, lifting or twisting for at least 6 months following scoliosis surgery).

7 thoughts on “Running with Scoliosis: My Top Tips

  1. Running is a great sport and really worth doing if you have scoliosis or any other back problem. The trick is to stay active. Very good article which I will share on my social media.

  2. Thanks for the tips on running with scoliosis. I have been struggling with ways to stay active through my scoliosis. I really like that you mentioned to work on strength training as well, in order to make your muscles stronger to support your spine. I will be sure to give this a try.

  3. Great article. Thanks for the inspiration! You are absolutely correct to say to mix it up and take breaks. Repetitive days in a row of any exercise makes my back hurt. I will share on my pages as well.

  4. Hello Louise
    There are so many types and severities of scoliosis, that I’ not sure it’s possible to generalize. Another major factor is age. I have a feeling that many who have written so far are on the younger (under 50) side. I am just about 60, a runner for 40 years. I have moderate, mostly thoracic scoliosis, which didn’t bother me for many years unless I stood too long. I’ve also lifted weights for 30 years. I began Iyengar yoga this year to address back pain, since this form of yoga focuses on alignment, which is lost with scoliosis. I am not sure, but I think running has been contributing to more pain over this past year. I am very sad about that, since running is by far my favorite sport. I’d be interested in hearing from older runners with thoracic curves, which are common in women.

    Louise – I very much appreciates your efforts around this!

    Best
    Caren

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