I was first diagnosed with scoliosis by my pediatrician at eight years old. I didn’t know what it meant, and I could still play sports. Therefore, I didn’t pay much attention. At the time, I didn’t know:
- Scoliosis is most commonly degenerative. A priori, if we do nothing, it will worsen over time.
- Kids are far more active than adults! As we get older and more sedentary, our joints become stiffer, and we develop aches and pains. In the ten years I’ve been helping people, more people suffer from chronic lower back pain than any other ailment.
When did scoliosis and back pain finally catch up with me?
I have ALWAYS hated leg day. It is exhausting and challenging and leaves me not wanting to move the next day. Worse than that, I would always get hurt. Barbell squats? Forget it. Deadlifts? I’ve acutely hurt my lower back too many times, and I was left immobilized for 24-48 hours each time. What I discovered was that I was doing the exercises incorrectly. However, at the time, that was all fine. I didn’t mind it as much in my early 20s because I would heal, get back up and do it again, each time improving my technique.
What struck the single-largest blow was the realization that I would never be able to achieve my goal: becoming an officer and pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps. Despite 11 months of training, hiring a personal trainer, and scoring almost perfectly on the Personal Fitness Test (PFT), my back could not take it. Every training weekend – spending two nights at a nearby fort or camp, preparing for Officer Candidate School (OCS) – left me needing to take days off work upon my return because I could not move.
Why am I telling you this, and why should you care?
You are likely dealing with some form of physical ache, pain, or debilitation. Physical exercise will certainly make you feel better unless your pain is caused by neurological factors or extreme, acute injury. Chronic knee pain? Often caused by weak or inactive Glutes. Chronic low back pain? Glutes again, plus usually weak or inactive Transverse Abs. Nagging shoulder pain is either caused by poor posture or the scapula being “stuck”. In either case, it’s typically a weakness or imbalance of the Traps, Pecs, and Lat muscles. In all these cases, movement is the critical element needed to rectify the problem causing pain.
How do I know this?
I’ve been there. Early in my training career, several personal trainers told me, “Oh, you should never deadlift if you have lower back pain.” This was a commonly held belief among many of my peers in college too. If there is pain or severe weakness in a specific part of the body, we should accept that there are things we cannot do and avoid using that part of our body. That makes sense, right? In some circumstances, it may even be applicable. Acute injuries, for example, often require time for the inflammation to subside or may even require even surgery. What’s problematic here is that our bodies naturally atrophy as we age, meaning we lose muscle – unless we strength train. If I were to avoid deadlifting because of my lower back, I would be devoiding my Glutes of what is, in my opinion, the single best exercise for them, let alone the human body.
We must understand that if we shy away from strengthening our bodies for fear of hurting ourselves, we are doing a massive injustice to the one singular body we have. Strength training is unquestionably one of the best things we can do for our health, capabilities, and longevity. Scoliosis may be degenerative, but so too is time if we let it idly pass by.