In honor of Scoliosis Awareness Month, I am going to help you all understand what it truly is, and how to check for it and treat it. Do you know what Scoliosis is? It’s when your spine is abnormally curved. Your spine, being your back bone, is generally straight even though many people have a slight curve that doesn’t affect you. But Scoliosis is an extreme curve that is either visible to the naked eye, or very noticeable in an X-ray.
Most of the time, the cause of Scoliosis is unknown(idiopathic). Scoliosis can affect about 2% of females and 0.5% of males. There are different types of Scoliosis, it all depends on what age it develops. It can start as early as age 3 in young children and develop at any age after than.
Congenital Scoliosis is the type of Scoliosis is present at birth. It occurs when the baby’s ribs or spine bones do not form properly. Neuromuscular Scoliosis is when there is a problem when the bones of the spine are formed. Either the bones of the spine fail to form completely or they fail to separate from each other during fetal development. This type of Scoliosis develops in people with other disorders, including birth defects, muscular dystrophy, and cerebral palsy.
There is also degenerative Scoliosis, which is where, unlike children and teens, it develops in older adults. Caused by a change in the spine due to Arthritis, or weakening of the ligaments and soft tissues around the spine.
Normally, there aren’t any symptoms, but there are signs to look for:
- Constant backache, or low back pain
- Getting a tired achy feeling in your spine after sitting/standing too long
- Uneven hips
- Uneven shoulders
- The spine curves more to one side than the other
In severe cases:
- Head appears off-center
- Obvious curve in your rib cage
- shortness of breath and chest pains due to limited space for the heart and lungs
The curving happens pretty slowly and isn’t immediately noticeable. Bad thing with that is, when it is noticeable is when it’s at a pretty severe point. One thing that I am grateful for was the School I was going to did a Scoliosis check for all the students and that is when I found out I had it. Many schools now a days do routine health checks where they will look for it and you can get it treated. Or you can visit your physician and they can perform a check for you. They might order an X-ray or do a typical check. This is how they usually check for Scoliosis:
Treatment for Scoliosis is tricky as there are many factors to look at. But usually it’s either observation, using a brace, or surgery.
Functional Scoliosis where there is an abnormality elsewhere in the body, is usually fixed by treating the issue causing the curve of the spine. Neuromuscular Scoliosis is usually treated with surgery since this type of Scoliosis gets worse over time. With Idiopathic Scoliosis, depending on the age of course, the Doctors usually start off with X-rays and a brace. It is most common in teens in hopes to prevent the curve from getting worse until they stop growing.
Even though I was a teen when they found my Scoliosis, they started off observing me. I would get an X-ray done every 3 months. Turns out I was curving at a rapid rate where the brace would not be effective in my case, so they opted for surgery. They told me the surgery would be life changing. Due to my personal case, I would be not be able to do A LOT of my normal stuff like run.
When surgery is needed, its called a spinal fusion. This is done with a combination of screws, hooks, and rods that are attached to the bones of the spine to hold them in place. The surgeon places bone graft around the bones to be fused to get them to grow together and become solid. This prevents any further curvature in that portion of the spine. In most cases, the screws and rods will remain in your spine and not need to be removed.
I had more than one of these done to my back. Because of the car accident I was involved int, it shifted everything and my spine was greatly affected. They tried a few times to try to repair the damage with no success to the point that in my adult life I couldn’t handle the fusion pain anymore. I have gotten all the rods, screws, and hooks removed. I still have A LOT and I mean A LOT of pain that affects me every single day with each activity I do. Personally, I would find other ways to correct the problem rather than do surgery. With how advance technology is now a days I have seen other forms to help Scoliosis fighters rather than fuse them up.
My first surgery experience was scary to say the least. 14 hours spent in the operating room, and months of recovery. Learning how to walk again, sit, stand, shower, sleep, EVERYTHING. One of the most important things is to have support of family and friends!!! Recovering from a major surgery like that isn’t easy and it was the toughest thing I had to do….4 times.
I wanted to write this and let you all know the severity of Scoliosis and hope you all get your children checked and opt for that routine school screening. Catch the problem before it’s too late!!! If I had known better, I am pretty sure my life wouldn’t be as difficult as it is now. I refuse to have another surgery done as I know it will do more damage than anything. Each surgery I had left me with a new pain and a daily reminder of what I deal with. Don’t ignore the symptoms!!! I’m sure you all have had lower back pain at some point so you know how painful it can get. Now imagine that pain ALL over your spine in your teen daughter, or son?
I used to be ashamed of my scar and my Scoliosis because it is very visible. My shoulder is higher, my hip is higher, I have a shorter leg, and I have a hump on my back. Many people do stare at me when I’m in a bathing suit and makes me uncomfortable. I rather you ask me why I am crooked like that then to stare and laugh. I know many Scoliosis fighters out there deal with similar issues, so I am sharing my story with you and letting you know there is hope to overcome. I still deal with chronic pains, some days worse than others. I do spend days in bed not being able to move due to the severity of the pain, and other days…I am out there running a marathon!!! Don’t give up Scoliosis warriors!!! It’s a tough battle but you will overcome. Be knowledgeable and smart on what you need to do. Don’t ignore it, treat it!!!
Even though I would spend months and years doing PT, nothing worked, and I would have CRAZY forms of therapy that made me more uncomfortable with the pain instead of help it. I never wore the brace but was on crutches a lot due to pinched nerves and no feeling in my legs. Today my pain problem is no feeling in my upper right, giving me limited movement in my right arm. Breathing is also an issue, but that is due to how my back is curved where I have limited space in my lungs. Now I actually use this amazing product called KT Tape that helps keep my pain levels low and it lasts for days at a time.
Feel free to ask me any questions about Scoliosis or how I make it my strength when I run rather than my weakness. I wasn’t always a fighter, I wasn’t always this strong. I learned to let go of things I couldn’t change and do something about it. I no longer hide behind my Scoliosis, I share it with the world to let you know you are stronger than you think. Having the support of my amazing husband and others makes it easier for me to continue to beat my deformity! I literally am beating it one step at a time. My goal was to become a marathoner and I have succeeded. My next goal is to run a faster half marathon, and tackle the 39.3 miles Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge!! I will continue to run to prove to myself that I am strong and I can do it. I refuse to be told I am too weak!!! Keep fighting Scoliosis Warriors!!!