Posted on

This is What I am Doing for My Scoliosis During the COVID-19 Lockdown

Written by Caroline Freedman, author of The Scoliosis Handbook

Depending on whether you are working or running around the house cleaning, our daily routines have changed dramatically.  My Personal Training classes, like many people’s work, have all changed to Zoom or FaceTime.  I am not moving around as much as I used to. Usually I am demonstrating and then walking around a client checking their posture and positioning, now I am sitting on my exercise ball closely watching the screen to check the exercises are being done correctly.  My clients say they are working harder than ever but what about me?  After the first week, I found I was stiffening up quite a lot, after three Zoom sessions, my legs and glutes went to sleep and cramped.  The same problem applies if I am sitting writing.  Speaking to clients, the huge change for many people working from home is that they tend to sit for hours in one position once they have got into deep concentration and have become focused.  Time also appears to just run away so it is easy to eventually glance at the time and realise most of the day has just disappeared and you still need to fit in cleaning, the washing, shopping, some voluntary work, cooking and…exercise….and don’t forget socialising on HouseParty to catch up with your friends. I also cannot visit my physiotherapist or book a home visit massage.

I have found the following changes to my day have really made a difference since the first two weeks of lockdown.


Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to get up and walk around and do some stretches.  Keep hydrated and if you have a garden, get some air.


I found that I was using my right arm to clean which is the same side as my curve.  Using one side repeatedly can result in an imbalance of the muscle build up, especially if you are cleaning every day.  One night I woke up with a spasm on the right side of my spine.  After a few stretches to release the back muscle (Lats) I was fine.  I have switched arms to do the cleaning. Yes, it does feel a bit weird at first but I found I became used to it quite quickly, with the exception of ironing, which I am definitely not bothering with.  Mopping for example, use your weaker side to do the work.  Anything heavy –  like lifting the vacuum up the stairs – ask someone else to help you if they are around. Try and delegate jobs. Note: if you run the home this can be a challenge and that whole discussion is probably for another blog!


Schedule that walk into your day and don’t miss it out.  Some fresh air and change of scenery does wonders for your mental health and I find I always come back home feeling calm and happy.  I also make sure I train every day.  You will find exercises in The Scoliosis Handbook that can be done at home.  I have floor exercises in my book you can do without the need for gym equipment.  Many of the equipment suppliers have run out, so for bands, replace them with tights or leggings and for weights, find some tins, bottles of water, books, bags filled with packets of rice/pasta.  There is also an abundance of exercise classes available online.  With scoliosis or any person with back issues you have to be careful. I have found that @yogaberry.scoliosis is really good to follow.  She is on YouTube with some free downloads or you can book into one of her Zoom classes.  I am offering one-on-one Personal Training sessions on Zoom for 30 minutes or 1 hour.  Please do get in touch if you would like to train with me.


Many scoliosis or back pain patients usually try to keep up regular visits.  If you have recently had surgery you may still be visiting your physiotherapist as part of your recovery.  Below are some stretches that may help you feel better.  You can also try ordering a spiky massage ball to roll up and down against a wall.  They are around £5.  For tired muscles try and order some magnesium salts to put in a hot bath. I find these salts are really great at easing aching muscles.  I find stretching really helps me.


This movement could come under exercises OR stretching depending on how slowly it is done. I recommend super slow.

It works the neck muscles and helps with strengthening the neck and improving posture.

  • Stand with your back to the wall and your knees slightly bent.
  • Gently push your head back using your neck muscles to try to touch the wall at eye level.
  • Make the push a very small movement towards the wall making sure your chin is tucked slightly in, hold for a few seconds, then relax.
  • Repeat the pushes six times and build to 10 repetitions x 3 sets.


I find this stretch a great relief.

  • Find a high bar or top of a door you can just reach.
  • Hold with both hands. Bend your knees and try to sit, so you are dropping your spine downwards. Do not arch your back, but suck your abs in.


This movement offers excellent release.

  • Sit on a chair, bench or Swiss ball (see the Scoliosis Handbook for guidance) with your knees at a 90° angle.
  • Cross your arms above your head with your hands on opposite shoulders.
  • Really try to sit up as tall as you can.
  • Move gently from one side to the other, lifting your hips off the chair alternately.


This is my all-time favourite stretch. It is my go-to stretch for any client who walks into my studio complaining that they have ‘done something’ to their back, or when I just want  a lovely  waking-up stretch.

If you sit at a desk for work, the banister stretch is great for pulling out a compressed

spine, opening up your vertebrae.

  • Find a banister or fixed pole.
  • Feet one and a half hip width apart
  • Grip with your hands and squat down and outwards.
  • Keep your back flat, head in line with your body, core sucked in.
  • Do not arch your back.
  • Imagine someone is pulling your hips towards the back of the room. Sit further down to get a deeper spinal stretch.
  • Hold for a few seconds up to 60, and repeat.

Always check with your doctor/physio that these exercises are safe for you. 

Illustrations by: Dunelm Digital –

Posted on

How to start exercising after recovering from scoliosis surgery (or any other surgery)

Scoliosis Handbook

At its simplest, scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. It looks like an ​S shape​. There are four common types:

  • Right thoracic curve – curve to the right (thoracic) upper back.
  • Right thoraco-lumbar curve – curve bends to the right of the thoracic down to the lumbar (lower back).
  • Right lumbar curve – curve bends to the right of the lumbar.
  • Double major curve – usually a curve to the right at the thoracic and left at the lumbar.

Diagnosis includes bending over to touch the toes and checking to see how symmetrical the spine appears plus X-ray, CT scan and MRI.

Signs of scoliosis as advised by the NHS include:

  • A visibly curved spine
  • Leaning to one side
  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder or hip sticking out

Scoliosis HandbookTreatment for scoliosis includes wearing a brace to help straighten the spine which can work, depending on the stage of the curvature, or surgery. If the spine develops a severe curve, this can cause pain, while also putting pressure on the heart, lungs and other organs. Physiotherapy, exercise and massage can also alleviate pain before and after surgery.

Starting to exercise again after scoliosis surgery can be daunting for many people. How far do you push your body and how quickly? It is easy to have lost confidence in your ability to judge your body especially if you have been out of action for months.

My guidelines for returning to exercise are based on recovery after scoliosis spinal fusion surgery but the general principles can be applied to anyone who has had fusion surgery, for example damaged discs, or indeed any other condition.

The idea after scoliosis surgery is to build up back muscles gently.

According to the surgeon from my third surgery, the general rule is to lift no more than 5 kilos with free weights.

Starting back to exercise


You should not feel pain during exercise at all. If there is any pain in the joints – back, neck, hips, knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists – stop what you are doing immediately. Gentle muscle pain after two days is normal in, for example, the quads (thighs), glutes (bottom) and abs (stomach). It is not normal not to be able to walk, or to have terrible neck and shoulder pain or to be in agony. If this happens, either the exercise was performed incorrectly or you have overdone it, or that exercise is definitely not for you. Do not over-push yourself at any time after scoliosis surgery. Initially, fatigue sets in quickly, so always make sure there is a rest time when the session is finished. Chill out for at least 30 minutes afterwards.

Always be aware of your posture and body alignment. Head, neck, shoulders, spine, hips, knees, ankles and toes should follow each other. A tip is to look down or check yourself in the mirror. Are your knees pulling together or your toes positioned inwards? Knees should be front facing or slightly outwards and toes positioned between 11am and 1pm OR 10am and 2pm.

With my clients, I operate what I call ‘exercise allergy awareness’


  • Start with one gentle exercise
  • Start with low repetitions
  • Wait for two to three days
  • If you feel no pain at all after two to three days, continue with the first exercise and add a second
  • Wait another two to three days
  • If you feel no pain at all, add a third exercise to your routine
  • Wait another two to three days
  • If you feel no pain at all, add a fourth exercise, and so on … If you do feel pain, which at its maximum should be no more than gentle muscle pain, you will now be aware that a particular exercise is to be avoided – just like a food allergy.
Caroline Freedman
Caroline Freedman, author of The Scoliosis Handbook

Regular exercise will really help to stretch and strengthen the muscles around your spine, keeping them strong. As a result, posture will improve and you will look and feel so much better. It is a case of listening to recommendations from the consultant, physiotherapist and your body as to what may be comfortable to do.

Always consult your GP, consultant or physiotherapist before starting to exercise again.

Blog post written by Caroline Freedman, author of The Scoliosis Handbook, coming soon to Hammersmith Health Books. For more information about Caroline or the book, visit her website: or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.