Tackling the diagnosis of scoliosis often requires a team approach. Because this condition can be caused by a variety of factors, multiple different treatments may be necessary to give you the best outcome and decrease your rib hump definition.
Fortunately, in many cases, simple exercises that can be performed at home may be a useful tool in reducing scoliosis rib hump and the effect it has on your day-to-day life.
Exercises that target the core, back and shoulder blade muscles may help decrease rib hump definition if you have scoliosis.
What Is Scoliosis?
While a normal spine contains several forward and backward curves as it runs from your head to your tailbone, scoliosis is a condition where your spine begins to curve from side to side. This spinal irregularity often accompanies a growth spurt during adolescence and may get worse as the child ages. While most cases of scoliosis are fairly mild, in some severe instances, this abnormal spinal curvature can cause a number of serious health issues over time.
People with scoliosis often have noticeable irregularities in their backs. One shoulder or hip may be elevated when compared to the other or a single shoulder blade or rib may appear more prominent. Scoliosis can also cause your spine to appear rotated or twisted.
Because of these spinal contortions, back pain is another common symptom that frequently accompanies scoliosis. In addition, these spinal changes have the potential to affect your lungs as well as your ability to breathe properly.
What Types of Scoliosis Exist?
There are several different types of scoliosis, notes the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Idiopathic scoliosis, the most common variation of this spinal condition, typically occurs as a child enters puberty and experiences a growth spurt. Most times, it is first seen between the age of 10 and when a child stops growing.
The large majority of idiopathic scoliosis cases are quite mild and may not require any treatment. In many instances, a small spinal curve or a low-level scoliosis rib hump may be detected during a child's annual physical tests or during a school screening.
A few other varieties of scoliosis can be seen, though these are typically less common. Neuro-muscular scoliosis, for example, occurs as a result of a neurological condition, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, affecting the tone and function of the body's nerves and muscles and causing the spine to curve as a result.
In addition, some newborns and infants may present with congenital scoliosis. This condition occurs happens when the baby's spine fails to correctly form while it is developing in the womb.
How Is Scoliosis Diagnosed?
As mentioned, idiopathic scoliosis is first diagnosed by a family physician during a routine checkup. The doctor will typically have an adolescent bend over so that he or she is able to trace the child's spine and detect any abnormal curvature.
The physician will also check the child's hips and shoulders to assess whether they are level with one another. A comprehensive family health history may be taken if scoliosis is suspected.
If irregular spinal curvature or increased rib hump definition is found on the exam, the physician may order X-rays to confirm the initial scoliosis diagnosis. This test can also help measure the precise degree of curvature (called the "Cobb angle") and help monitor any changes that occur over time as the child ages and progresses through puberty.
Neurological screens and pulmonary tests may also be performed depending on the cause of the scoliosis and any accompanying symptoms that the doctor deems concerning.
Decreasing Your Rib Hump Definition
While scoliosis usually first appears when you're young, managing this condition is often a lifetime task. According to an August 2016 review published in Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders, performing specific exercises may help reduce spinal asymmetry and scoliosis rib hump. In addition, regular physical activity may help reduce muscular imbalances, decrease pain and improve the ability to breathe in more advanced scoliosis cases.
To help combat your spinal curvature, these exercises help activate your core, hips, shoulder blades (scapular) and spinal muscles. Many also help stretch or elongate the muscles on the inside portion of your spinal curve that tend to become very tight over time.
Try the following exercises to help decrease your rib hump definition. Remember that it's best to work alongside your doctor or physical therapist as many of the exercises can be customized to properly target your specific spinal curvature.
1. Start With Pelvic Tilts
The pelvic tilt exercise is a great move to begin to activate your abdominal muscles. These important structures in your core help to support the spine as you go about your day. According to the Children's Hospital of Orange County, including pelvic tilts in your workout regimen may also help improve posture and promote spinal realignment.
- Lie on your back with your feet resting on the floor and both knees bent to 90 degrees.
- Simultaneously squeeze your stomach and buttock muscles as your back flattens against the floor. Visualize your pelvis rocking backward as you complete this motion.
- Hold this flattened position for five seconds before relaxing and complete 10 repetitions of the exercise.
- Two sets of 10 pelvic tilts can be performed each day.
To make this exercise more challenging, hold your pelvic tilt while you alternate marching each of your legs.
Make sure to continue breathing and avoid shrugging your shoulders up toward your ears as you perform your pelvic tilts.
2. Try Some Side Bending
Individuals with rib humps from scoliosis typically have stretched or elongated muscles on the outside of their C-shaped curve and shortened or tight muscles on the inside portion. Stretching the taut muscles on the inner area of the C may help reduce muscular imbalances and improve the visual appearance of your back.
A small 50-person September 2015 study published in Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders found that using this static side-bending exercise along with other treatments may help improve the look of your spine and rib hump.
- With a foam roll or rolled towel beneath you, raise both arms overhead and clasp your hands together.
- Allow your bottom hip and shoulders to relax and sink downward toward the floor.
- Hold this stretch for two minutes initially and gradually work your way up to 10 minutes as it becomes easier. You should feel stretching along your spine and flank on the side facing up.
3. Make a Bridge
The bridge exercise, which targets the erector spinae muscles of the low back and the gluteus maximus muscle in your buttocks, is another helpful exercise for reducing your rib hump definition.
According to a small, 29-person study published in the April 2017 edition of the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, incorporating the bridge into a core training routine may help reduce the Cobb angle in elementary school children with scoliosis. The steps for performing this simple movement include:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degree angles and your feet resting on the floor.
- Begin by clenching your stomach muscles and then lift your buttocks in the air as high as you are able to without causing increased pain. Be sure not to hold your breath or strain your neck muscles as you do this.
- Attempt three sets of 12 repetitions of the bridge exercise at least three times per week.
To make the bridge exercise more challenging, try lifting your body with only one leg while the other leg is extended in the air and complete three sets of 12 on each side.
4. Do the Cat-Camel
The cat-camel exercise is a helpful technique for scoliosis sufferers. It can be easily performed at home and is recommended by the Children's Hospital of Orange County for treating irregular spinal curvature. This core exercise helps stretch out the muscles along your upper and middle spine while also targeting your abdominals.
- Get on your hands and knees so that your palms are under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips. Your neck should be relaxed and your head should stay straight.
- Squeeze your stomach muscles tight. Then take a deep breath in as you draw your rib cage inward and round your spine up toward the ceiling as if you're a frightened cat.
- Next exhale and allow your back to sag and your ribs to move toward the floor. Continue to move between the two positions 10 times and do two sets of the exercise each day.
5. Raise Your Arm and Legs
Simultaneously raising your arms and legs in the air activates the muscles that line your spine and that surround your shoulder blade. The same April 2017 study in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation found that this exercise may also help decrease the curvature in your middle (thoracic) back that can contribute to the appearance of a rib hump.
- Lie on your stomach with your arms over your head and your legs straight. Put a towel roll under your forehead for comfort and to ensure that you don't overuse your neck muscles.
- Begin by lifting your right arm and your left leg straight up in the air. When you're unable to lift them any higher, hold them here for a second before lowering them back down.
- Repeat the lift with the opposite arm and leg. Continue to alternate between the two sides and complete three sets of 12 repetitions three times per week.
Warnings and Precautions
Incorporating the exercises listed, along with others that your physical therapist or physician recommend, may be helpful in reducing your scoliosis rib hump. Consistency is the key.
However, strengthening and stretching exercises alone may not be enough. Some people with more advanced cases of spinal curvature may require additional treatment to properly treat their back.
Be sure to speak to your doctor if you develop any numbness, weakness or pain in your arms, back or legs. In addition, noticeable worsening of your spinal irregularity or difficulty breathing should be immediately reported. According to the Mayo Clinic, further interventions like back bracing or even surgery may be required to properly stabilize and support your spine in some more-advanced cases of scoliosis.
- Mayo Clinic: “Scoliosis”
- American Association of Neurological Surgeons: “Scoliosis”
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: “Idiopathic Scoliosis in Children and Adolescents”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Pediatric and Adolescent Scoliosis: Diagnosis and Tests”
- Children’s Hospital of Orange County: “5 Scoliosis Exercises”
- Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation: “Effects of 12-Week Core Stabilization Exercise on the Cobb Angle and Lumbar Muscle Strength of Adolescents With Idiopathic Scoliosis”
- Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders: “Physiotherapy Scoliosis-Specific Exercises – A Comprehensive Review of Seven Major Schools”
- Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders: "The Effect of Schroth Exercises Added to the Standard of Care on the Quality of Life and Muscle Endurance in Adolescents With Idiopathic Scoliosis — An Assessor and Statistician Blinded Randomized Controlled Trial"
- Mayo Clinic: "Scoliosis: Diagnosis and Treatment"