Scoliosis and Running

running and scoliosis

Jogging and running are fine for most people with scoliosis.

The National Institute of Arthritis states: “Although exercise programs have not been shown to affect the natural history of scoliosis, exercise is encouraged in patients with scoliosis to minimize any potential decrease in functional ability over time. It is very important for all people, including those with scoliosis, to exercise and remain physically fit. Girls have a higher risk than boys of developing osteoporosis (a disorder that results in weak bones that can break easily) later in life. The risk of osteoporosis is reduced in women who exercise regularly all their lives. Also, weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, running, soccer, and gymnastics, increases bone density and helps prevent osteoporosis. For both boys and girls, exercising and participating in sports also improve their general sense of well-being.”

Before Running

For beginning running, whether it is for health, fitness, weight loss, competition, or just for fun, it is important to first learn proper technique and find a running program that is appropriate for you.

Before beginning a running program it is important to get a physical exam from your doctor, especially if you have any of the following:

  • You’ve been sedentary for a year or more.
  • You don’t currently exercise and are over age 65.
  • You have been diagnosed with heart trouble.
  • You’re pregnant.
  • You’re overweight
  • You’re a current or former smoker.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have a family history of heart disease.
  • You have chest pain, especially when exerting yourself.
  • You often feel faint or have severe dizzy spells.
  • You have another medical condition.

Discuss with your doctor your running plan and any goals you may have so that they may determine any possible health risks. Also, have a scoliosis specialist design or review  your program for a running regimen.  Alongside your running program a scoliosis exercise program will work to minimize the impact of running on your scoliosis and vice versa. It will also maximize flexibility as well as strengthen your core and hip muscles. It is beneficial to have your gait assessed for biomechanical issues that may need to be corrected. Orthotics may be prescribed or heel lifts if a leg length discrepancy is present. Use running shoes with good cushioning to lessen impact. You can have your shoes fitted to ensure best support. Run on grass whenever possible for less impact on your spine. Always stretch before and after and to maintain spine flexibility and prevent joint stiffness, have regular sessions with a chiropractor as well.

Proper Running Technique

Proper running form can help you run more efficiently, with less stress on your body and reduced risk of injury. Here are some basic rules for proper running technique.

This video from eHowFittness demonstrates proper running form:

 

Here are some basic rules for proper running technique from about.com but similar rules and instructions can be found on many athletic and running websites:

Look Ahead

Don’t stare down or at your feet. Your eyes should be focused on the ground about 10-20 feet ahead of you. This will also insure that you see what is ahead of you and avoid falling.

Land Midfoot

Don’t land on toes or heels. If you land on your toes, your calves will get tight or fatigue quickly and you may develop shin pain. Landing on your heels means you have overstrided and you’re braking, which wastes energy and may cause injury. Try to land on the middle of your foot, and then roll through to the front of your toes.

Keep Your Feet Pointed Straight Ahead

Make sure your toes are pointed in the direction you want to go. Running with your feet pointed in or out could lead to running injuries.

Keep Hands at Your Waist

Try to keep your hands at waist level, right about where they might lightly brush your hip. Your arms should be at a 90 degree angle. There’s a tendency for beginners to hold their hands up by their chest, especially when they get tired but, you may get more tired by holding your arms that high and you will start to feel tightness and tension in your shoulders and neck.

Relax Your Hands

As you run, keep your arms and hands as relaxed as possible. You can gently cup your hands, but don’t clench your fists because it can lead to tightness in the arms, shoulders, and neck.

Check Your Posture

Keep your posture straight and erect. Your head should be up, your back straight, and shoulders level. Keep your shoulders under your ears and maintain a neutral pelvis. Make sure you’re not leaning forward or back at your waist, which some runners do as they get tired. Check your posture every so often. When you’re tired at the end of your run, it’s common to slump over a little, which can lead to neck, shoulder, and lower-back pain. When you feel yourself slouching, stick your chest out.

Relax Your Shoulders

Your shoulders should be relaxed and square or facing forward, not hunched over. Rounding the shoulders too far forward tends to tighten the chest and restrict breathing.

Rotate Arms from the Shoulder

Your arms should swing back and forth from your shoulder, not your elbow.

Don’t Bounce

Try to keep your stride low to the ground and focus on quick stride turnover. Too much up-and-down movement is wasted energy and can be hard on your lower body. Take short, light steps, as if you’re stepping on hot coals. The higher you lift yourself off the ground, the greater the shock you have to absorb when landing and the faster your legs will fatigue.

Keep Arms at Your Side

Avoid side-to-side arm swinging. If your arms cross over your chest, you’re more likely to slouch, which means you’re not breathing efficiently. Imagine a vertical line splitting your body in half–your hands should not cross it.

Warm-up and Cool-down

All of your runs should start with a warm-up and end with a cool-down. A good warm-up dilates your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen. It also raises your muscles’ temperature for optimal flexibility and efficiency. By slowly raising your heart rate, the warm-up also helps minimize stress on your heart. The cool-down keeps the blood flowing throughout the body. Stopping suddenly can make you light-headed because your heart rate and blood pressure drop rapidly. Winding down slowly allows them to fall gradually.

  • It’s not a good idea to stretch cold muscles, so don’t start with stretching. Do about 5-10 minutes of light aerobic exercise to loosen up your muscles and warm you up for your run. Try walking briskly, marching, jogging slowly, or cycling on a stationary bike. Don’t rush your warm-up!
  • Begin your run. Don’t start out racing, but instead jog slowly and gradually build up your speed. You should be breathing very easily. If you feel yourself getting out of breath, slow down.
  • After you finish your run, cool down by walking or slowly jogging for 5-10 minutes.
  • Stretch fully after your cool-down. Your body should be warm and stretching should be easy.
  • Stretch your lower back, neck, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and groin area. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

 

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