7 Exercises for Thoracic Dextroscoliosis to Help Ease the Pain

Being diagnosed with dextroscoliosis can be overwhelming, but understanding your condition is the first step to determining which exercises might be most beneficial for you. Scoliosis is a three-dimensional deformity that causes the spine to curve sideways. Exercises can be beneficial as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for spinal deformities, including dextroscoliosis.

There are exercises you can do to relieve pain and pressure from dextroscoliosis. (Image: sandsun/iStock/GettyImages)

What Is Thoracic Dextroscoliosis?

Thoracic dextroscoliosis is a type of deformity that causes the spine in your upper back to curve to the right — the prefix "dextro" is Latin for "to the right." This curve is the most common type of scoliosis because the body automatically causes the spine to curve away from the heart (located in the left side of your chest cavity, in the thoracic region), according to the Hudson Valley Scoliosis Correction Center.

7 Exercises for Thoracic Dextroscoliosis

Dextroscoliosis varies widely in severity, and treatment ranges from observation to surgery. Exercises can help improve posture, relieve pain and slow the progression of the deformity.

In some cases, exercises can even reverse the curve — particularly for people who are still growing (ie. kids and teens). Treatment for dextroscoliosis often includes wearing a brace, which can interfere with your ability to exercise.

Warning

Because scoliosis deformities vary widely in severity, always follow your doctor or physical therapist's instructions regarding specific exercises for your condition.

1. Proper Sitting Posture

Because dextroscoliosis often causes your shoulders and hips to be uneven, the first exercise involves correcting your posture to make your shoulders and hips symmetrical, in a seated position. At first, it's helpful to sit in front of a mirror for feedback, as "proper" posture will initially feel awkward.

Once you're able to hold a symmetrical sitting posture on a firm surface, practice while sitting on an unstable surface such as a large exercise ball, suggests a 2016 study published by Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders. This will require your trunk muscles to do double-duty as they work to keep you balanced and to hold a symmetrical position.

As your strength improves, practice this exercise without the mirror during everyday tasks like sitting at your desk or at the table for a meal. Further challenge your muscles by maintaining a neutral posture while carrying a bag or performing tasks that require bending or reaching.

2. Shoulder Blades Squeeze

Scapular squeezes help strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades that are responsible for proper posture.

  1. Sit up straight on a firm surface, with a symmetrical posture (see above).
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if you're trying to hold a pencil between them.
  3. Hold for two to three seconds, then relax.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Don't allow your shoulders to shrug during this exercise. This altered movement indicates that your traps (muscle along the neck, shoulders and upper back) are doing the work, rather than the targeted muscles between your shoulder blades.

3. Pelvic Tilt

Core-strengthening exercises target muscles that support your spine. The easiest and lowest impact way to do this is to begin by mastering the pelvic tilt.

  1. Lie on your back on a firm surface with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Place your hands on your hips.
  2. Tighten your abdominals as if you're pulling your belly button back toward your spine. You should feel the muscles under your fingertips contract.
  3. Hold for two to three seconds, then relax.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Progress this exercise by adding arm and leg movements while you maintain a pelvic tilt.

  • Lift one arm overhead
  • Lift both arms overhead.
  • March your feet in place.
  • Straighten one leg at a time, lifting it toward the ceiling.

4. Modified Swimming

Strengthen your erector spinae — muscles that help keep your spine straight — with this modified version of the popular Pilates exercise called swimming. As the name implies, it feels similar to swimming on dry land (very, very slowly).

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs stretched straight.
  2. Lift your right arm off the ground while simultaneously lifting your left leg straight up.
  3. Hold for three to five seconds, then slowly lower back down. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

Progress this exercise by performing it in a hands-and-knees position (this variation is often referred to as bird-dog).

5. Child's Pose to Cat/Cow Pose

Stretches help lengthen upper back and shoulder muscles that shorten with dextroscoliosis. Combine Child's pose and Cat/Cow pose, made popular with yoga, to improve flexibility in your upper back.

  1. Position yourself on all fours with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders.
  2. Keeping your hands in place, tuck your chin and exhale slowly, sitting back on your heels.
  3. Inhale slowly, moving back into an all-fours position. At the same time, arch your back toward the ceiling as far as you comfortably can.
  4. Exhale and drop your belly down toward the ground, lifting your chin up toward the ceiling.
  5. Move back into prayer stretch to finish the move.
  6. Repeat five times.

6. Standing Side-Bend Stretch

Dextroscoliosis causes muscles on the left side of your upper back to become tight. Stretching can help improve flexibility in these muscles.

  1. Stand up tall with both arms straight over head. Interlock your fingers.
  2. Without bending forward or backward, slowly lean to the right until you feel a strong pull or stretch along the left side of your rib cage.
  3. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then relax.
  4. Repeat three times.

7. Kneeling Side-Bend Stretch

The kneeling side-bend stretch positions your thoracic spine in the opposite direction of your scoliosis curve. It's common to be uncomfortable while performing this stretch, but don't stretch to the point of pain. This can cause your muscles to tighten more in response.

  1. Lie on the ground on your left side.
  2. Bend both knees and stack them on top of each other.
  3. Prop yourself up on your left forearm. You should now feel a stretch along the left side of your rib cage.
  4. Breathe slowly and try to expand the left side of your chest as you inhale as deeply as possible. Slowly exhale.
  5. Repeat five times.

Consider Physical Therapy

Everyone with scoliosis has a different spinal rotation, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Although the overall direction of your curve is likely consistent with other people who have dextroscoliosis, the rotation of each of the vertebrae affected can vary.

Physical therapists can be trained in specific treatment protocols based on researched interventions to best address the individual needs of patients with dextroscoliosis. So in addition to discussing the above stretches and exercises with your doctor or physical therapist to see if they'd be helpful for you, you may also want to book some one-on-one sessions with your PT.

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