It’s the first day of June. We are already halfway done with the year. Crazy huh? That also means it’s Scoliosis Awareness Month. Every week I’ll post a Scoliosis related post across my social media accounts so make sure you are following. I want to bring awareness to this condition being that so many are shy or embarrassed by it. Therefore, not a lot of people are aware or have any clue what it is.
I feel it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It makes us unique, and that scar is nothing to hide. Wear it proudly because you are a Scoliosis warrior!
WHAT IS SCOLIOSIS?
Scoliosis is a term used to describe any abnormal, sideways curvature of the spine. Viewed from the back, a typical spine is straight. When Scoliosis occurs, the spine can curve in many ways. Most commonly into an “S” shape. Curvature of the spine usually occurs when you are growing or going through puberty. In rare cases, Scoliosis can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the cause of most scoliosis is unknown.
Some children develop spine deformities that continue to get more severe as they grow. Severe Scoliosis can be disabling. An especially severe spinal curve can reduce the amount of space within the chest, making it difficult for the lungs and heart to function properly.(Mayo Clinic)
What signs to look for.
While Scoliosis doesn’t have much noticeable symptoms, there are things you can look for. Someone with a mild curve can have little to no pain, sometimes going unnoticed. Someone with moderate to severe Scoliosis will have obvious signs:
– Uneven shoulders
– A shoulder-blade that sticks out more than the other
– Uneven hips and waist
– The body leaning more to one side
– shorter/longer legs
Believe it or not, Scoliosis doesn’t typically cause any back pain, but it happens. For example, I started having odd back pain around 12 years old. I did see doctors but they didn’t find anything worth a cause of concerns and said they are just “growing pains” But if you suspect Scoliosis, I advise you to go to a spine specialist to get it properly checked out.
When to see a Doctor.
Like I said before, if you suspect Scoliosis, you should go see a doctor, or spine specialist as soon as you can. Usually, schools do have a Scoliosis check for any student whose parents want them to be checked. I 100% recommend them getting checked. This is how my Scoliosis was detected, officially. They perform Adam’s forward Bend Test, which is where the students are bending forward with arms stretched downward toward the floor and knees straight, while being observed by a healthcare professional. This is the BEST angle to clearly show any Scoliosis symptoms which is present in a kid going through puberty.
Because a Scoliosis curvature is usually in the thoracic or thoracolumbar spine (upper back or mid back), if a rib hump or asymmetry of the lumbar spine is found, or if the shoulders are different heights, then there is a strong possibility they will be diagnosed with Scoliosis. At this point they will be told to see a doctor.
I’d love to say that the Adam’s Forward Bend test will be the only one, but that is just the beginning. The doctor you see will have you do multiple tests,, including x-rays, in some causes MRIs. He will be testing your neurological responses as well. Since the spine includes so many nerves and muscles that go to your brain, it all must be checked. It’s usually are where the doctor asks you to push and resist with different muscles in your legs, feet, arms and hands.
X-rays are a must. No matter the severity of your curve. An x-ray can tell a doctor exactly how much of your spine is curved and they will measure it in degrees.
Causes of a curved spine. Doctors still have yet to determine how Scoliosis is caused. Although they have determined that it does have hereditary factors, because the disorder tends to run in families. And it is most common in women than men. Less common types of Scoliosis may be caused by, Neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, and birth defects that affects the spine. (Mayo Clinc)
How to treat Scoliosis.
A mild form of Scoliosis, which IS most common will not need any treatment. Like I said, it doesn’t cause pain or discomfort. Many who have a mild cause don’t even know they have it. Again, depending on the severity or the size of the curve, different measures will be taken. Double curves(S curve) and larger C curves tend to worsen quicker.
-Observing. Those with Scoliosis, doctors will usually just keep an eye on it. Maybe need a check up once or twice a year or something along those lines.
-Back brace. During the observation stage, the Doctor might suggest or put you in a Scoliosis brace. Keep in mind that EVERY case is different. While many might have similar journeys, they won’t be the same. Depending on the age, and if bones are still growing, a brace could work. It doesn’t reverse or cure Scoliosis, but it will certainly keep it from getting worse.
A brace can be worn day and night, but the most time spent in the brace, the more effective it is at keeping your spine from further curvature.
-Surgery. Since there are some Scoliosis that progress at a faster rate, the Doctor might suggest a spinal fusion. A spinal fusion is pretty painful. An orthopedic surgeon will connect two or more of the bones in the spine together, so they can’t move independently. Pieces of bone or a bone-like material are placed between the spine. Metal rods, hooks, screws or wires typically hold that part of the spine straight and still while the old and new bone material fuses together.
Surgery can be put off until the bones have stopped growing, but again, every case is different. Some might need immediate surgery. And of course, complications of spinal surgery may include bleeding, infection, pain or nerve damage. Rarely, the bone fails to heal and another surgery may be needed.
That is what happened to me. I was petrified. I had gone to a check up 3 months prior and the doctor said, I could no longer wait. My already large “S” curve had progressed very quickly. I spent 14 hours in the operating room and had to literally learn how to do everything all over again. From sitting, standing, walking, lifting my arms to breathing. The pain, post op…no words to describe it. I was told I needed the surgery because if not at 30 years old I’d have complications with my lungs and heart.
I have actually had 4 spinal surgeries, and each surgery came with more risks and complications. I have tons of muscle damage, and nerve damage. I just turned 33, and I must say, that was one thing the doctors got right. I was recently in the hospital for trouble breathing and pressure on my heart. Turns out that my spine puts pressure on my rib cage and chest cavity. Problem with that..it hurts to breathe, and my heart has less room to do its work.Luckily, I found a doctor who has put me on a treatment that is keeping the pain under control. The meds are keeping my muscles relaxed so they don’t tense up and cause problems in my chest.
The best tips I can give you is to WEAR THE BRACE! I never wore it but wish I was given the option to do so. I know it isn’t the best, most comfortable thing to wear but in the long run, you will be so THANKFUL you did. You might endure a year or two with the brace, instead of a lifetime of complications like me.
While I haven’t had the easiest journey out there, it certainly could be worse. But I can not tell you a day where I didn’t have pain. It’s difficult to deal with, but luckily, I get by with the support of my family and friends. And I give thanks EVERY NIGHT for being blessed with the MOST amazing, caring, selfless husband in the world. I truly am luckily to have him along with the most loving sweetest son in the world.
If you know a mother, or a father going through this with their child, please show them support too. While they sit there trying to be strong for their child, they are falling apart inside. I know it’s hard to get through it, but you will get through it.It’s OK to cry, it’s OK to be scared. Be strong, be brave, be human.
Through out the month of June, I will be writing about Scoliosis and I am ALWAYS here to answer questions, just listen to stories, give advice, and be happy when you all share your Scoliosis stories of overcoming it! Write me! I’d love to hear about your Scoliosis journey firstname.lastname@example.org
the Scoliosis Runner