#Scoliosis

So one thing in particular that has been on my mind every day for the past month is my SPINE. I’m blogging about this because I want people to understand more about scoliosis.  Sometimes people feel weird about asking me what’s wrong with my back so here’s a perfectly clear explanation!

In 2005, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.  Scoliosis is measured by the angles of the thoracic (upper) and lumbar (lower) vertebrae of the spine.  The normal person’s curvature is 0/0 degrees (0 thoracic(upper) and 0 lumbar (lower)).

So I went to a pediatric orthopedic doctor and from that time began wearing a back brace (specifically a boston brace) for 20 hours every day-I would only take it off for showering/swimming, and exercising.  

It was custom-fitted to my torso, made of hard plastic on the outside and lots of padding on the inside, with 3 large velcro straps on the back.  Many of my friends didn’t know I wore it because I did my best to hide it, but the friends I did tell joked with me about it…specifically by punching me in the stomach on purpose because I had abs of “steel” that were really just plastic!

This brace was meant to keep the curvature of my spine from getting worse, but unfortunately after wearing it 20 hours a day for 4 years and 12 hours a day for another year my spine had, in fact, worsened. 

By this time, the curvature of my spine was 50 degrees/50 degrees, perfectly even on the top and bottom.  Ironically 50 degrees is the “magic number” for scoliosis patients to get surgery [surgery involves bracing a metal rod to the spine].

 

Patients often get surgery for cosmetic reasons-so luckily, because my spine was a perfect “S,” it was not visible from the outside that my scoliosis was so severe and therefore did not get surgery!

It was at this point that I was told I wouldn’t need to wear my brace anymore and I was THE happiest girl in the world.  My back had gotten progressively worse, but I no longer needed to wear a brace and that was enough for me at the time.  Above all, I was relieved to be out of a brace.  At the same time, I had to find a new, “normal'” (non-pediatric) doctor.  The combination of these two events made me think that I would no longer need to worry about my spine again.

All that changed when I got to college and experience severe back pain.  I knew my spine was the cause of it and decided it was time to see a real doctor who knew what he was doing and would actually fix my curved spine.

In January, the week before second semester started here at Cornell, I went to see a specialized doctor at Scoliosis Systems, in NYC by recommendation of a friend.  My first appointment with them lasted 5 hours, during which time they took several x-rays and scans of my back, showing me how my spine was curved/rotated, how this affected my posture, and the things I could do to fix my posture.

That week, I went into NYC to see my doctor 4 separate days during which I:

1.  Went to their office for 10 hours of physical therapy.  There I learned specific a-symmetric yoga exercises and breathing exercises for my spine specifically, called the Schroth method.  To build the muscle on the right side of my spine, I’m supposed to do these exercises for 1 hour every day.  This is why my dorm room currently looks like a yoga studio:

2.  I got yet ANOTHER back brace.  Who knew I’d be in another brace again in my life?  I thought I was done with these wretched things!  My new one looks very different from the last one:

It involves lots of complicated velcro straps and feels SO UNCOMFORTABLE but its just another thing I’ll have to get used to.  Since I’m wearing this 20 hours every day, I’ve had to change my wardrobe in order to hide it which is easy now in the cold winter, but won’t be so easy during the summer!

All in all, going to this new doctor is the best decision I made.  Although it takes a lot of time and commitment, wearing a brace all the time especially, I just have to keep reminding myself that its for the best. Scoliosis is something that will affect me for the rest of my life and anything I can do today to help it will only benefit me tomorrow.

[Celebrities with Scoliosis]:

Sarah Michelle Gellar, Usain Bolt, Liza Minnelli, Shaliene Woodley

6 thoughts on “#Scoliosis

  1. Thanks for sharing, Lauren. The new brace looks very complicated — I’d probably end up each day in a tangle of straps! 🙂 And you are so spot on about thinking about the future.

  2. We all have something to wrestle with, I guess. Yours is very concrete and you seem to have a good proactive attitude about it, which is inspiring. I had no idea Usain Bolt had scoliosis.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi there. Stumbled on to your page. Just curious, has your back improved any with the new brace and exercises?

  4. Thanks for asking! Yes it has; I went to my quarterly appointment last spring and my back got better by about 6 degrees on the top and bottom curves. I went back again at the end of summer for my six month check up, and my back hadn’t improved since the last appointment. I’ll be going back again in the winter and that’s when I’ll update you because it will have been a year in the new brace!

  5. It’s been a little over a year now. How is your spine doing these days? Have you continued with the asymmetric yoga and the new (now old) brace? If you have improved, I think I will look in to getting that brace and trying out those exercises for myself.

    I hope all is well with you and school.

  6. Thanks for asking! My spine hasn’t gotten any better or worse. I’ve stopped growing now so the only real way to correct it would be surgery at this point. Look into the spinecor brace if you want other options to explore or if your bones are still growing (in which case there is still more time to correct the curve!)

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