“Why this blog?”
Here’s a better question: Why not this blog?
If you’re a scoliosis sufferer like me, searching online for answers about treatment and your body’s prognosis, you’ve probably been through similar feelings that I’ve had of feeling confused, scared, and hopeless.
Over and over again, we’re told the only options we have are for a brace. Until the brace no longer helps, of course, and then we’re sentenced to having a surgery to correct the curvature using either a rod or spinal fusion.
Just as upsetting, your doctor might have even told you this news dismissively, stating it like “That’s just the way it is, kiddo” and waving it off, oblivious to the fact that your heart just sank to your feet and questions about your future health are now washing over you in waves. “That’s just the way it is”?
I’ll start by saying these three things about myself:
1) I am a 26-year-old woman dealing with moderate scoliosis in my lower and upper back (a classic S-shape);
2) I am not, in any way, a doctor. Not a GP, chiropractor, surgeon, or even an alternative doctor.
I am, however;
3) A fierce advocate and champion of my own health, for whom the dismissive answer of “That’s just the way it is” is unacceptable.
My own journey of healing my scoliosis, which continues to this day, (although I have enjoyed tremendous healing since I started, using methods I will detail later) began somewhere in middle school.
My first memories of my scoliosis came from my dealing with the symptoms. Sitting down for long car rides made me uncomfortable and fidgety, a person’s hand gently pushing on my lower back’s left side felt like a knife, and on my worst days, my rib cage would be so twisted it felt like I could never get a full breath, causing me to panic and stand in front of a floor fan, just to feel like I was getting oxygen somehow. Standing on my feet for too long made me feel like my spine was going to close up like a telescope, and I started noticing how my body was dipping and twisting in bizarre ways, even when I was standing straight. (That is, what I thought was straight.)
I was X-rayed and diagnosed with scoliosis around the age of 10, but at the time I thought I only had the curve in my lower back, since the X-ray did not include my upper back. But around the age of 15, my parents took me in for an X-ray at a pediatric hospital, and we saw the full curve—the full TWO curves, the first one in my lower back curving to the left and then snaking its way between my shoulder blades to the right. If I remember correctly, my degrees were 28° and 25°, respectively.
I was devastated.
Thankfully, the doctor, who specialized in scoliosis, didn’t immediately suggest that I receive surgery or a brace, because I was able to moderate the pain by chiropractic care and martial arts activity, but he warned that I might not have much time left before we were left with no other option but a brace and/or surgery.
Flash forward to my senior year of college
The pain in my back and knee and the pressure from the rotation of my rib cage had become unbearable, likely due to my not getting enough sleep and carrying a heavy backpack across campus every day. I was only 21 at the time, but I was already beginning to wonder if I would still be able to walk in a few years due to the pain, and how I could live with such intense pain and discomfort.
My father, after much prayer, found a type of physical therapy for chronic pain sufferers (including those with scoliosis) called the Egoscue Method. He read about it in this Wall Street Journal article about “Soul Surfer” Bethany Hamilton. Hamilton lost her left arm in a shark attack, and while she continues to surf (using her right arm to paddle), the right side of her body had become far stronger than the left, which began to pull her spine to the right, giving her scoliosis.
The Egoscue Method has allowed Hamilton to heal and maintain her healing, so my parents thought, maybe it could help our daughter with her scoliosis?
I was scheduled for an appointment at the Egoscue clinic in Austin soon after, and that’s when my life changed.
My first visit at the Austin Egoscue clinic was a breath of hope, and a literal breath of fresh air. After a nearly two-hour assessment of my scoliosis by one of the main therapists, Theresa Mathes, (who co-owns the clinic with her husband, Rick Mathes) she created a “menu of E-cises” customized to target my set of problems. I’ll never forget when looked at me and said, “I’m going to get you feeling better today.”
That wasn’t hyperbole. When I walked in, I could barely breathe due to my rib cage pushing against my lungs, my shoulders were completely misaligned, and my right knee hurt so badly from my rotated femur I could barely move. But when I walked out four hours later, I could breathe, my shoulders were level, and it no longer hurt to walk.
The best part? I took the E-cise menu home with me, so I could do the E-cises every day to strengthen and encourage my body to adopt these new postural and spinal alignments, and I was scheduled to visit the Egoscue clinic again two weeks later for an assessment and a new menu. Rick and Theresa were gentle but firm, understanding, and passionate about charging me with hope that my scoliosis could be greatly improved, if not eradicated. It would take a long time, they told me, but there was no reason to think that it was impossible.
I have been doing Egoscue for four years now, and I know that my life wouldn’t look the same without it. Likely I would have had to undergo surgery, and that was never an option I wanted to use. I’m immensely happy that I have been able to deal with and even reverse enough of my scoliosis to make life so much less painful!
So…why this blog?
I wanted to create a blog about my alternative journey toward healing my scoliosis and to share the research I find, because I don’t feel there’s enough discussion about alternative methods. Not only that, but I feel there is so much negativity around the idea of even trying an alternative method. Can we all agree that the idea of spinal fusion or a metal rod inside your spine sounds awful? Why would we knock other ideas for a cure? Why wouldn’t we challenge the status quo, and hope for a better solution?
Also, I want to give hope to other people, that there are alternative methods, and that you don’t have to start your healing journey as a child in order for it to be effective. I’m proof that even people who are past their “growing stage” can still make improvements to their scoliosis.
During my journey to find answers, treatments and cures, there has been so much negativity—or, at least, insensitivity—and I want people to maybe find hope and understanding here. Naysayers and “keyboard warriors” can show themselves to the door; this is a blog of hope, curiosity, research, and experimentation with alternative treatments, and I’m not apologizing for it.
In addition to Egoscue, I’m also exploring several other possible treatments, and I have no problem being my own (and anyone else who reads this blog’s) guinea pig. I’ll tell you what I’m researching, why I’m thinking it could be related to my scoliosis, and how I think it might be able to help.
I cannot stress this enough: I am not a doctor of ANY kind—I hold zero medical designations. You’re reading “The Adventures of Scoliosis Girl and the Great Stabbing in the Dark for Cures, Clues and Information” here. I’m just an everyday person who’s dissatisfied with current answers for how to treat my condition, and I’m chronicling my journey to find better answers. What works for me might not work for you, and I am in no way telling people what they should or shouldn’t do for their own scoliosis treatment. I’ll report what doing certain things does to my scoliosis, why I think it’s helping me, or research that I find interesting and possibly relevant, and you can decide if anything you’ve read here is something you’re curious to try for yourself. Proceed at your own risk.
I’ll leave you with the Scripture that finally kicked me into starting this blog:
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Don’t lose hope! Keep asking questions, keep thinking, keep trying.
His and yours,