Scoliosis, arthritis, hip dysplasia, inflammation, sciatica – it is tough to train with injuries!
Don’t let sports injuries prevent you from becoming fit and healthy. There is a saying “If there is a will, there is a way”.
This couldn’t be more true when it comes to health and fitness. As long as you are determined to change your lifestyle, you can do it. No excuses, everything can be adjusted to your body. You just have to know how!
Disclaimer: Starting this post, I thought of talking about my experience with battling scoliosis and give tips on how to work around it. However, my tips can be applied to any sports injury and diseases hindering you to move your body in every direction.
I am a medical professional, but I am not your doctor. These tips are not intended to diagnose or treat you, these are simply tips you can try based on my scientific research, medical knowledge and, most importantly, my own experience.
This is the first part of a series. If you enjoy this content and find it helpful, please let me know!
15 Ways to train with injuries – Part 1
1. The right diagnosis
First of all, the proper diagnosis is key to develop a custom training plan for scoliosis and any other sports injury. Get an appointment with your orthopedic doctor of choice and ask for an x-ray and an MRI. Even if he does not see it as necessary, insist on it.
Regarding scoliosis, you need to know exactly what your spine’s curve looks like to be able to address the muscles surrounding it properly.
2. Education is key
Once you know more about your condition, it is time to start researching a little bit. In general, healing a sports injury is going to take a lot of time and effort from your side, especially if it is a deformation, such as scoliosis. This is not a disease that can be cured by taking a simple pill. Thus, you need to learn all about what scoliosis is and what your options for treatment are. I realize that in very severe cases, exercise is not enough to decrease the pain. However, if you are lucky and your doctor or parents noticed your condition as you were a child, you can still change the curvature of your spine, as the bones structure is still changing.
It was too late for that for me but I still researched a lot on scoliosis and what the treatment options are.
Even if your injury is “just” a pulled muscle or an inflammation of the joint – my first recommendation is always to research what the cause could be. This way, you will also learn why your injury occurred in the first place – and how to prevent it in the future. Most sports injuries come from poor form during exercise execution and muscle imbalances.
3. Detect muscle imbalances
Most people have muscle imbalances. None of us is built in a symmetric way. I have written a long article on how to address muscle imbalances that you can check out here. The problems start, when you treat an asymmetric body like a symmetric one. Muscle imbalances are built over years and it is easy to overlook them and “push through”. Sooner or later the pain will catch up and you will regret that decision… .
Regarding scoliosis, one or more parts of your body are crooked. Thus, it is 100% likely that you have developed severe muscle imbalances. In fact, the pain of scoliosis patients occurs mostly in their muscles, due to those imbalances. Our brain tries to keep us upright despite our uneven body and as a result, some muscles in our body become bigger and stronger than others. If this is not addressed with proper training, it can lead to overuse injuries and constant joint pain.
To detect muscle imbalances, stand upright in front of your mirror, with as few clothes on as possible. Look into the mirror and watch the following parts of your body:
- Shoulder height: Can you form a straight line from one shoulder to the other or is one shoulder higher?
- Hips height: The same as for shoulders: If one shoulder is higher than the other, typically the hip of that sight will be higher as well.
- Knees: Are your knees caving in or turned out slightly?
- Feet: Are you standing straight or do you naturally tend to pronate or supinate your feet (feet carve inwards or outwards)?
Next, stand in front of your mirror and perform a squat. Watch your hips as you descend: Do you tend to lean more to one side than the other? Do you feel your muscles activate on both sides or more on one side?
The same principle can be applied to any bilateral exercise (standing on both feet). As you perform rowing movements, deadlifts, chest press, pay attention to your muscle activation. If you notice that one sides burns more than the other, it means that that side has a stronger connection with your brain. Typically, that side is your stronger side and the other one is weaker, thus it doesn’t get activated as much.
4. Find the perfect exercises
Now that you have found your muscle imbalances, it is time to pick the right exercises to address the imbalances. The best technique I use is “biofeedback”. This is a training technique that implies “listening to your body”.
Before each workout, do one round of each exercise bodyweight and assess how you feel. Do the exercises cause discomfort or pain? Do you feel one side activate more than the other? If you notice any of this, cut out that exercise and try to do a different variation.
For instance, if you have severe hip imbalances, cut out squats and deadlifts and do the unilateral versions instead. One-legged Squats, Lunges, Step ups, One-legged Deadlifts are all great substitutions working the same muscle groups but building more strength on both sides.
Continue assessing each exercise this way and make yourself a list with all the exercises you were able to perform without feeling pain. Muscle soreness is okay but you should not feel any pressure on your joints or ligaments.
5. Customize your workouts
You can still follow a workout plan designed by your personal trainer of choice. However, it is important to realize you need to customize the workout plan to fit your body’s needs. Otherwise, your muscle imbalances will increase over time and you risk injury. Thus, take out your list of exercises and change the workout plan according to that. This way, you can still follow other trainer’s plans and don’t have to design your own workouts all the time.
I hope you find this series helpful. If you need help with your nutrition and training, check out my coaching packages!
If you have questions or liked this article, please comment below and share this on social media. I am sure others could benefit too.