In itself, scoliosis is challenging to deal with. The misalignment of your spine's curvature can lead to backaches, stiffness, and throbbing pressure in your bones—all of which can be exacerbated by your weight. Losing weight, therefore, can be vital to easing your symptoms and living with scoliosis.
However, it's also crucial to understand that losing weight isn't merely a matter of adopting a strict diet or setting an exercise regimen that would lead you to shed pounds rapidly. More health specialists are adopting the set point theory—a new understanding of how bodies adapt to weight gain and loss. Understanding it may help you take control of the symptoms you experience.
Here's an overview of what set point theory is and how it can help you tackle weight management if you have scoliosis.
What is set point theory?
It isn't enough to lose weight in one fell swoop, whether via diet or workouts. Doing so only pushes your body to revert to your set point weight—your predisposition for a certain weight based on hormones, genetics, and other biological factors. Your body pushes you to return to and retain this status quo by increasing your hunger signals and slowing your metabolism.
While this is considered an evolutionary feature that protects us from starvation, it becomes detrimental if your set point weight harms you and your spine. Research has shown that excess weight can worsen symptoms of scoliosis, and whilst your body may work to keep you at one weight, your back may demand you lose more. According to a 2022 study, overweight individuals with scoliosis are twice as likely to present with unbalanced shoulders, and too much weight can add stress to the spine.
Fortunately, you're not trapped by your set point weight and its strain on your condition. This bodily mechanism can be overridden with a few concrete steps.
Set point theory for scoliosis weight management
Gradual dietary changes
Set point theory posits that your body will resist accelerated changes in weight. This means that diets or workout routines that promise slimness in a matter of weeks will ultimately be futile, even if it does show results at first. Instead, shift your diet gradually. Opt for healthy and filling food that you enjoy—especially foods that are part of an anti-inflammatory diet to stem spinal swelling, like leafy greens and fatty fish—while aiming to lose one to two pounds a week. Your scoliosis will benefit from the slow but steady release of the strain, especially now that the weight won't suddenly return.
You can supplement the benefits of your dietary changes by exercising. Researchers have found that core-based exercises are particularly helpful in reducing spine curvature and improving the quality of life for scoliosis patients. However, like your diet, you can take it slow—working out according to set point theory means you can take your time losing weight, which will ultimately have more benefits in the long run.
You can start by walking more frequently and incorporating more movement into your daily life, even if it's just swinging your legs and fidgeting. You can then transition to sports that you love, like dancing. Eventually, you can try stretches and exercises specifically for scoliosis—and to take it a step further, you can leverage exercise equipment such as stall bars, wood stools, and extension poles to perform therapeutic movements beneficial to your back.
While challenging, managing your weight with scoliosis is achievable. Keep set point theory in mind when making lifestyle changes to help ease your symptoms.