What is Scoliosis? My story of straightening an s-shaped spine
I developed scoliosis at the age of twelve and a half, and it was quite severe. But by the time I was fourteen, my spine was straight again. You can fix your own scoliosis through posture exercises and massage if you are sensible, avoid injury, make sure you are performing the exercises correctly - and if you keep going.
I treated my scoliosis with physiotherapy - I exercised daily to straighten my back muscles. This page is an attempt to share what I learnt about curing your own scoliosis.
I remember when we discovered it quite vividly, because it HURT. I had dreadful back and chest pain and didn't have to eat dinner (which was great, as it was food I didn't like!) We'd just been to the swimming pool and I thought it must have been from all the dolphin diving I'd been doing (basically I stood up, dived, stood up, dived.... over and over in the shallow end!)
But it turned out to be scoliosis. The curve of the spine is visible to the naked eye and when I bent over it was easy to see the dramatic s-bend in my spine. My parents knew what it was, and were easily able to identify it - apparently we had a family history of it, and I guess they feared it might turn up in us kids. And I am incredibly glad they recognised it - and acted.
Do You Have Scoliosis? - I just can't go straight...
Do you, or did you ever have, Scoliosis?
Congenital or Structural (Idiopathic)?
What kind of Scoliosis do you have?
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - The difference between scoliosis and kyphosis.
When people hear about crooked spines, they think of hunchbacks. This isn't quite accurate. There are two main types of spinal crookedness:
Scoliosis, in which the spine forms an S shape from side to side, tilting the person's back, hips and shoulders left and right.
Deenie by Judy Blume - A Children's Story about Scoliosis
I actually read this book before I was diagnosed - I didn't really remember it at the time, but I went back and read it again afterwards and it made a lot more sense as it actually mattered to me now. Deenie is a girl who is diagnosed with scoliosis when she is thirteen - half a year older than I was. She's also on track for a career as a model, which frankly wasn't something I was interested in! But the family dynamics, the schooling, the friends... I still remember a scene on a bench with her friend. Those were all interesting. Judy Blume writes good books for kids. Well, young teens. (I read everything I could get my hands on, so I'd have read it whatever it was like - but it did mean I could recognise a good book when I'd finished!)
More to the point, Deenie has to wear a brace from her neck to her hips. It's an ugly and uncomfortable cage. But she learns how to cope and she has hope ahead. (To my disappointment, that's pretty much where it ends - at the point where she's learnt to live with it. We don't get to read until the brace comes off again).
I'd recommend this to anyone between 10 and 15. There aren't many fiction books out there about people with scoliosis and this is one of the classics.
How can you cure Scoliosis?
The common treatments for scoliosis
I know of three main ways to treat scoliosis.
1. The Brace: This is what it sounds like - a large metal brace (or possibly other substances by now) around your back to force your posture and your spine straight. Obviously irritating and uncomfortable, this is what Deenie wore in the book of the same name (below).
2. Rods and Surgery: this is what my aunt ended up with. The spine is surgically straightened and rods are inserted into the spine to force it to remain straight. It is painful and permanently restricts your mobility (you can't bend over easily anymore!) She also wears orthopaedic shoes.
3. Physiotheraphy: This was the route I took. I suspect it depends on what causes your scoliosis - in my case it was muscular/postural. I was also still growing, and it was diagnosed very early. (By 'very early' I mean that it was advanced, but I had not been living with it very long and it was still getting worse).
Physiotherapy, yoga and massage therapy work on the muscles each side of the spine - I've described this more in the rest of the lens.
Pilates and the Alexander technique are also good approaches - the Alexander Technique is a gentler way of realigning your posture.
- walking (NOT running) and trampolining and swimming (particularly breaststroke) are all recommended activities.
If your scoliosis is caused by both legs being short than the other, you can also get special orthopaedic shoes.
Which route did you go down to fix your scoliosis?
How did you 'fix' your Scoliosis?
Scoliosis Massage Therapy - Massage treatment for spinal curves
I went to see my physiotherapist regularly, and yes, I do remember that there was massage therapy. These should give you an idea of what's involved.
Massage therapy on its own is unlikely to cure scoliosis - but it can help relieve the pain, loosen your muscles and keep you on track. Also, you have the benefit of a (hopefully) trained professional having a lookat what your spine is doing.
Treating Scoliosis Yourself - There's a lot more available along the lines of physiotherapy and yoga than there used to be
While the physiotherapist was the reason my spine ended up straight again, I had to do all the work myself. The daily exercises strengthening the muscles evenly along my spine, and correcting my posture were what helped 'cure' my scoliosis.
I still have a 'crunchy' spine - when it's stiff I can click it all back into place, and if I roll my right shoulder, the shoulderblade crunches quite audibly against the spine. I've lost my sheet of exercises, but most of them were quite straightforward, and there are some good resources easily available now such as these books, and the videos below.
I redrew the ones involving the ball (directly below) and if you search for exercises to correct back posture you should find a lot. Most exercise balls come with a sheet of 'how to use this ball' exercises these days, as well.
Excercise Balls - Why is an Exercise Ball important? And what do you look for when buying one?
When I was 12, we were poor, lived in the middle of New Zealand and I had two younger siblings. (Well, I still have those!) My physiotherapist told them to buy an exercise ball - and they did. It cost a lot of money (especially for us, then) but luckily they're a lot cheaper now.
Until I got this, I had a few exercises but there wasn't much else I could do. Once the ball arrived I went through the whole list every morning and every night. Each session was about twenty minutes long. Most of them involved balancing, and building up muscle strength in my back, so that each side of my spine was equal.
Six months later, I was pretty much cured. Two months after that, my siblings couldn't resist the GIANT bouncy ball and took it out in the garden to play with, and punctured it. I still miss it. In fact, I'm considering buying another, as they make good seats, are good for balance, and exercising on - and especially for back exercises. That, and there's always the risk that I'll develop a nasty slouch that will set my spine curving again...
Edit: ha. I'm sitting on one right now, the back pain got too much.
You want a strong ball, that won't burst or give way when you're using it. Smooth skinned balls are more comfortable, but more slippery. For size - ideally, you want to be able to sit on it comfortably, or balance, lying down, with your weight on your arms. So measure the height of a chair or the length of your arm and add a few centimetres for bounce.
55cm is about right for small-medium height person (5"0" to 5'7" tall), but they offer a range of sizes.
Ball Exercises: Strengthening the Back Muscles - ...and correcting posture
Repeat the exercises below (and any others you like) for about 40 minutes a day (e.g. twenty minutes in the morning and again at night).
These are harder and need your back to be straight to stop you falling off. It helps build up the muscles in your back and correct your posture.
If you have trouble balancing, rest on your chest or stomach, and move to balancing on your thighs. Also, you can just flop over the ball to relax your muscles if they're tense.
Amazing Chairs for Posture and Exercise - I found these chairs while browsing - and now I really want one
These chairs are all very positively reviewed alternatives to a 'normal' chair. They force you to stay upright and keep a good posture. You should be able to get a similar result with a plain exercise ball, but these are actually designed for sitting at the desk with.
They're expensive, but apparently worth it. I want one, but I can't ship them to NZ!
Useful Sites About Scoliosis - More information and support can be found at the following sites
- Scoliosis - Have questions about Scoliosis? iScoliosis.com has answers.
Scoliosis is a condition which affects the spines of many children, teenagers and adults. The human spine features many natural curvatures which help our bodies to move and be flexible.
Guestbook - Ever met anyone with scoliosis?
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