Tag: scoliois

Can diet cause, or cure, Scoliosis?

Today there are a wide variety of non-surgical treatment options for scoliosis, and indeed there are a growing range of options within the surgical remit. As society as a whole becomes more aware of scoliosis, many professionals are entering the field and offering their own views about how their specialisms may be able to contribute to treatment programs.

While it is always important to be cautious of new ideas when dealing with scoliosis (after all, a mishandled case often ends in surgery) it’s certainly the case that many “alternative” or “complementary” treatments can have some positive impact for scoliosis sufferers. To take just one example, massage therapy – a discipline not traditionally associated with scoliosis treatment – is now embraced by many scoliosis practitioners, not as a primary treatment, but as an effective (and enjoyable) method to improve some functional issues. Massage is of course also beneficial for improving overall health factors such as sleep patterns.[1]

Clearly, there are many specialisms which can provide a useful piece of the puzzle as far as providing a holistic scoliosis treatment program, this is not especially surprising in terms of a well established and professionally practised disciplines such as massage. Where more scepticism is required, is in cases in which treatments with no prior connection to scoliosis, or to musculoskeletal conditions is concerned

In this vein, recently, several “scoliosis diets” have appeared, along with the suggestion that diet may somehow contribute to scoliosis, or even cure the condition. Let’s unpack this claim and explore its possible consequences.


Diets and scoliosis

At the outset, it is important to stress that there is no current evidence which suggests that following a specific diet can do anything to improve an existing scoliosis case. Nor is there any substantial precedent for the idea that nutritional variations can “cure” or “treat” an existing musculoskeletal issue. In short, “scoliosis diets” do not work for those who already have the condition.

Having said this, the question of a link between scoliosis and nutrition is an interesting one – and an area in which further research may prove fruitful. As it stands, studies in this area are currently limited but there is some evidence that many idiopathic scoliosis patients also have lower selenium levels than normal.[2] Other research has suggested a similar pattern in some animal populations, so any relationship between selenium levels and scoliosis would, therefore, be of interest from a preventative point of view – but still not a factor which would be likely to offer any practical form of treatment for those with the condition today.

For the benefit of context, it is also worth keeping in mind that the majority of research into the causes of scoliosis is currently focused on the role of genetics, which is where the bulk of the field currently believe the answer will be found. This does not mean that environmental factors such as diet could not also be contributors, but it seems fair to suggest that they are not likely to be the central factor.

Thinking more broadly, it is the case that osteoporosis may be a factor in worsening scoliotic curves  (especially in older individuals) – and there are dietary modifications which can be made to help avoid osteoporosis. Vitamin D, in particular, is an important nutrient that helps prevent osteoporosis and inaccuracy for the absorption of calcium.  Sources of vitamin D include cereal, saltwater fish and eggs. Similarly, Calcium is  critical for building bone mass. In the long term, regular calcium consumption during childhood helps prevent osteoporosis during late adulthood, which may then slow the development of scoliosis. Examples of calcium sources include yoghurt, cheeses and milk –  Broccoli and orange juice also contain calcium. Including these foods in your diet and indeed, in the diet of younger children may have some long term benefits – however, it would be disingenuous to suggest that what is, in truth, simply good nutritional advice, constitutes a specific “scoliosis diet”.


Summary : can diet cause or treat scoliosis?

At this time there is no specific evidence to support the use of any specialised diet as a treatment methodology for scoliosis, and SOSORT does not recommend the use of diet as a treatment approach.[3] It is true that osteoporosis can, later in life, contribute to the worsening of scoliosis so taking steps to avoid this may be beneficial – although this is certainly the case regardless of scoliosis risk!

While some research does suggest a link between scoliosis and some deficiencies (and this is an area of interest in terms of causality) it is unlikely that any change in diet will act as an effective treatment for scoliosis.

[1] M Hamm, Impact of massage therapy in the treatment of linked pathologies: scoliosis, costovertebral dysfunction, and thoracic outlet syndrome. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies (J BODYWORK MOVEMENT THER), Jan2006; 10(1): 12-20.

[2] Yalaki, Zahide et al. Investigation of Serum Levels of Selenium, Zinc, and Copper in Adolescents with Idiopathic Scoliosis Dicle Medical Journal / Dicle Tip Dergisi. 2017, Vol. 44 Issue 1, p35-41. 7p.

[3] Stefano Negrini et al. 2011 SOSORT guidelines: Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation treatment of idiopathic scoliosis during growth Scoliosis 2012 7:3

Is exercise recommended for people with scoliosis?

The role of sport and exercise as it relates to scoliosis and its treatment is a complex one. It has been known for some time that participants in some activities, such as gymnastics, seem to have a higher risk of developing scoliosis – at the same time, it has also long been suggested that exercises such swimming could help to reduce scoliosis. These are just two examples of the seemingly contradictory information available on scoliosis and exercise – this week, we summarise the latest findings and guidelines.


Do some forms of exercise cause scoliosis?

At present, there is certainly evidence to suggest that participants in some activities, such as gymnastics or dance have a higher chance of developing scoliosis. Indeed, research suggests that gymnasts are up to 12 times more likely to develop scoliosis than non-gymnasts on the whole.[1] There is a 10-fold higher incidence of scoliosis among rhythmic gymnasts[2] and an increased incidence of scoliosis has been reported in ballet dancers (24%)[3] What this observation does strongly suggest is the value of regular scoliosis screening for those involved in gymnastics, ballet and other forms of exercise which involve much contortion of the body and spine. What this evidence does not necessarily mean is that gymnastics causes scoliosis, since correlation does not necessarily mean causation.

While it does seem as though patients with scoliosis are more likely to participate in sports like gymnastics[4] it is now thought that this is because patients with scoliosis tend to have a higher prevalence of joint laxity than the general population this makes them more flexible[5], which would be a natural advantage in these activities. Therefore, avoiding such activities probably won’t do anything to prevent or avoid scoliosis.


Isn’t exercise good for everyone?

At the risk of providing a very simplistic answer, yes. Almost all scoliosis clinicians agree that those with scoliosis should actively take part in sport and physical activities[6]. This is not least because the psychological and social aspects of exercise are shown to be related to the patient’s self-image in a positive way[7] – indeed, it has also been reported that persons with scoliosis who exercise regularly, show higher self-esteem and have better psychological outcomes from treatment[8]. Therefore, SOSORT also recommends that patients with scoliosis should remain active in sports activities[9], especially since, as outlined above, participation does not seem to directly affect the occurrence or degree of scoliosis[10].


Can exercise cure scoliosis?

Tired out girl

Specialised forms of exercise can treat scoliosis, but most forms of exercise still make a positive contribution to health !

It was once thought that a range of everyday exercises may be beneficial for scoliosis suffers – today the picture s more refined. For example, it was once widely reported that popular forms of general exercise, such as swimming (which has traditionally been recommended as a good sports activity for scoliosis and even prescribed by some physicians as a treatment),could be a possible corrective approach. Now we know that swimming does not seem to have any positive effect on scoliosis, although its certainly a great low-impact form of exercise, and a lot of fun!

To return to the point about causation and correlation, there is also at least one older study from 1983, which screened 336 competitive adolescent swimmers for scoliosis and found the prevalence of scoliosis to be 6.9%[11], which is more than double the average. Despite this, there is no evidence to suggest that swimming is a causative factor of scoliosis.

If general exercise does not seem to improve scoliosis, is there an approach that can? In fact, there are several forms of specialised exercise which have now been developed with the sole aim of reducing and controlling scoliosis – these are the Schroth and SEAS approaches, both of which have proven to be successful alone, and far more successful when combined with bracing. You can learn much more about both approaches on our site – but for more information please don’t hesitate to get in touch!



[1] Prevalence and predictors of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in adolescent ballet dancers’

Longworth B., Fary R., Hopper D, Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014 Sep;95(9):1725-30. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2014.02.027. Epub 2014 Mar 21

[2] Tanchev PI, Dzherov AD, Parushev AD, Dikov DM, Todorov MB. Scoliosis in rhythmic gymnasts. Spine. 2000;25(11):1367–72.

[3] Warren MP, Brooks-Gunn J, Hamilton LH, Warren LF, Hamilton WG. Scoliosis and fractures in young ballet dancers. Relation to delayed menarche and secondary amenorrhea. N Engl J Med. 1986;314(21):1348–53.

[4] Meyer C, Cammarata E, Haumont T, Deviterne D, Gauchard GC, Leheup B, et al. Why do idiopathic scoliosis patients participate more in gymnastics? Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2006;16(4):231–6.
Meyer C, Haumont T, Gauchard GC, Leheup B, Lascombes P, Perrin PP. The practice of physical and sporting activity in teenagers with idiopathic scoliosis is related to the curve type. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2008;18(6):751–5.

[5] Kesten S, Garfinkel SK, Wright T, Rebuck AS. Impaired exercise capacity in adults with moderate scoliosis. Chest. 1991;99(3):663–6.

[6] Liljenqvist U, Witt K-A, Bullmann V, Steinbeck J, Völker K. Empfehlungen zur Sportausübung bei Patienten mit idiopathischer Skoliose. Sportverletz Sportschaden. 2006;20(01):36–42.

[7] Fällström K, Cochran T, Nachemson A. Long-term effects on personality development in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Influence of type of treatment. Spine. 1986;11(7):756–8.

[8] Liljenqvist U, Witt K-A, Bullmann V, Steinbeck J, Völker K. Empfehlungen zur Sportausübung bei Patienten mit idiopathischer Skoliose. Sportverletz Sportschaden. 2006;20(01):36–42.

[9] Negrini S, Aulisa L, Ferraro C, Fraschini P, Masiero S, Simonazzi P, et al. Italian guidelines on rehabilitation treatment of adolescents with scoliosis or other spinal deformities. Eura Medicophys. 2005;41(2):183–201.

[10] Kenanidis E, Potoupnis ME, Papavasiliou KA, Sayegh FE, Kapetanos GA. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis and exercising: is there truly a liaison? Spine. 2008;33(20):2160–5.

[11] Becker TJ. Scoliosis in swimmers. Clin Sports Med. 1986;5(1):149–58.