June is Scoliosis awareness month so I thought I’d try to help raise awareness about the condition and share my own experiences with it.
One of the first things most people say when I mention Scoliosis is ‘what on earth is that?!’ and they look at me with a rather confused expression which is totally understandable as it’s quite a strange word so that’s a good place to start.
♦️What is Scoliosis?
The word ‘Scoliosis’ comes from an Ancient Greek word translated as ‘Curved’ because the condition causes a S’ or ‘C’ shaped curvature of the spine.
♦️How Scoliosis affects the body
As you can see from the pictures the curvature of the spine means that it can alter the shape of the body. Each individual curvature is different.
The condition can have very little impact on a person’s health and they lead a very normal life but in other cases it can have a massive impact on the entire body and change a person’s life.
The curvature can cause/affect many things within the body. The ribcage and shoulders can become uneven and twisted. The pelvis may twist and because of these changes in the positioning of the spine the space in which the internal organs such as the lungs and heart can decrease. This means the lungs cannot expand properly which causes breathlessness and a lowered lung capacity. It can place pressure on the heart due to the lower lung capacity.
♦️There are 7 types of Scoliosis
📌Adolescent idiopathic Scoliosis is the most common form of the condition and occurs during a growth spurt around the age of 10 years old. This type basically means it happens in adolescence without a known cause. 3/4 children in 100 will have this form of it.
📌Congenital Scoliosis is when a baby develops the condition on the womb as the spine doesn’t form correctly.
📌Early onset Scoliosis means that the curvature develops between birth and before a child starts puberty which is usually around 10 years old.
📌Degenerative Scoliosis occurs in adults when bones become weaker with age.
📌Neuromuscular Scoliosis is a curvature that occurs due to a neurological or muscular condition such as Spinal Bifida and Cerebral Palsy.
📌Scheuermann’s kyphosis happens when the tiny bones that piece together to make your spine grow at varied speeds during childhood.
📌Syndromic Scoliosis develops as a part of syndrome such as a connective tissue disorder like Marfan’s and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome,trisomy 21, Prada-Willi, Retts syndrome and Beale’s syndrome.
As I was researching this I came across an interesting website that went into depth about what doctors and specialists have learnt so far about how Scoliosis occurs. It is a very medical based explanation but I found it fascinating.
“ Spinal posture is an automatic neurological orientation to gravity that most of us take for granted.
If someone had Scoliosis , these control centers aren’t alerting the central nervous system and muscles of the abnormal posture, so the spine curves instead of correcting itself. The spinal muscles aren’t weak, which is a common misconception; they just aren’t getting the right messages.” Treating Scoliosis.com
I was diagnosed with idiopathic adolescent Scoliosis at around ten years old after suffering from back ache for several months. I saw my GP who gave me a simple examination that involved bending over to the side, to the front and just standing there quickly spotted the problem and I was referred to a specialist for monitoring.
I had an anterior spinal fusion when I was 24 which involved removing damaged discs, replacing them with bits of rib and placing titanium rods and screws in my spine which would help to support a straighter positioned spine.
I then spent 6 months wearing a carbon fibre back brace whilst my spine healed fully. As much as I despised that brace and felt so embarrassed wearing it 23 hours a day as soon as I was given the all clear to stop wearing it I felt really vulnerable to my surroundings and I’d sometimes wear it again just for the safety factor.
It wasn’t an easy experience and the operation and recovery was the harder, most painful, scary thing I’ve had to go through but I would say that it’s made me a stronger willed person because of that difficulty. I know I can overcome pain and struggles, both mentally and physically. For a more detailed version please Click here
I have spine and hip problems now that affect my life a lot and I am in constant pain which sucks but my spinal fusion is still holding strong.
In fact I had a tattoo on my back to remember what I’ve been through and it reminds me that I can get through more than I think I can. I wanted to take all the negativity that I have placed on my back problems over the years and make it into something beautiful.
♦️Famous people with Scoliosis
▪King Richard III
King Richard III suffered from an extremely curved spine and Shakespeare famously depicted him as a hunchback in his plays.
▪Princess Eugenie had spinal surgery in the private ward at the same hospital so had my surgery.
▪Kick ass Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar found out she had Scoliosis as an adolescent.
♦️School screening in the UK
Scoliosis can be an extremely painful condition that not only affects your posture but can also impact on your breathing due to decreased lung capacity. The screening for Scoliosis is a very simple, non stressful or invasive procedure.
Early diagnosis of the condition could mean that treatment such as a brace or close monitoring would prevent the need for surgery. There is not a screening practise in place in the UK despite 4 in 100 children having Scoliosis.
🖋Please sign the petition to have a mandatory school screening put in place and support children’s futures.
♦️Helpful links and references