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My experience of Scoliosis

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine, also accompanied by rotation. It effects 2-3% of the population. There are two general types of scoliosis:

Structural scoliosis - A permanent irreversible curvature and rotation of the spine (unless surgery is used to correct it). The curve develops in adolescence and the cause is generally unknow. Approximately 30% of people with this type of scoliosis have a family history of the condition.

Functional scoliosis - Sometimes caused by leg length difference, but the actual structure of the spine is not affected, heel lifts in shoes are sometimes used to balance the leg length to help correct the scoliosis.

I personally have structural scoliosis and have not had surgery to correct it. I didn’t know I had scoliosis until I was 19. A good friend pointed out that my back was curved and encouraged me to get it looked at as I had a lot of back pain.

As a teenager I remember being in pain a lot at school, especially when we were in science and we had to sit on high stools with no back support, but I just thought it was normal and everyone must feel the same.

I really wanted to be a hairdresser so at the age of 14 I got a Saturday job in a local salon. I remember seeing myself in the mirror and thinking I always looked like I was slouching but could never make myself stand straighter, at that point I didn’t notice I only looked like this from one side.

Standing was when I experienced the most pain, if I was passing perm rods or foils to one of the hairdressers it would feel like I was stood there forever, trying not to fidget to ease my back pain.

This continued when I was a qualified hairdresser, jobs that took longer such as perms or a full head of highlights caused me a lot of discomfort. Eventually I moved into barbering as the quicker haircuts meant I got to move around more. After I had children the pain got a little worse and I quit hairdressing all together, I still miss it sometimes, I loved the creativity and meeting new people every day.

I only experience pain when I am standing still for long periods of time, walking is fine, thankfully, as I love to go for long walks.

In 2016 I started attending our local fitness studio, Empower Fitness in Alford. I did a beginner’s pole fitness course and attended Yoga and Pilates classes.

My strength and flexibility were non-existent. I really wish I had photos to show you, but honestly I couldn’t get my hands much further than my knees never mind to my toes, sitting up tall felt like a workout in itself and forward folding over my legs in a seated position was about 1cm of movement.

To be honest, I felt really embarrassed, but hugely supported by my teacher Emma. I had always been conscious of the curve of my spine. I have a noticeable hump on the upper right side of my back, noticeable to me anyways.

But over the years of going to the studio I can honestly say I have sort of forgotten about it. By working on my core strength and mobility I have probably tripled my flexibility, but most importantly I am most of the time now pain free. I can stand for much longer periods without pain now.

My confidence is much improved too, sure I am still self-conscious and now I am teaching yoga I feel a little conscious asking students to create length through the spine or avoid rounding in the back – because my back always looks rounded from one side! But overall, I feel better about it now the pain is mostly gone.

I am making an effort to be mindful of the teaching cues I use in yoga, for example, if a teacher says ‘straighten the spine’ or ‘flat back’ I instantly feel self-conscious, so instead cues like ‘think about creating as much length and space as you can though the spine’ feel far more encouraging.

I am very lucky that my scoliosis (which is classed as moderate) hasn’t held me back in my hobbies, I have a lot of back flexibility but I am mindful to always counter pose (as everyone should!) and know my limits.

The only thing that didn’t quite work for me was running, which is shame as I was loving it, but it really tightened up my lower back and I would be in a lot of pain again first thing in the morning. But that’s ok, we adjust as we need and instead I walk as much as I can along the beach, taking my time to take it all in, if not running is the only adjustment I have to make I am very lucky.

Just because running didn’t work out for me, it doesn’t mean someone else with Scoliosis would have the same problems, because no two cases of scoliosis are the same.

I have an ‘S’ shaped curve, meaning there is curvature in the top and bottom of my spine. Some people have a curve just in the thoracic (upper) spine, whilst for others it is in the lumbar (lower) spine.

Curves can cause convex (raised areas) and concave (sunken areas) on the back, hence the noticeable rib hump. Other symptoms of scoliosis are:

· Uneven hips

· Body shift to the side

· Uneven shoulders

Speaking of those uneven shoulders, I have had wonky hair cuts before now due to the hairdresser using my shoulders as a guide!

Scoliosis can cause many issues including:

· Physical pain

· Digestive problems

· Breathing problems

· Insomnia

· Feeling unbalanced

· Emotional insecurities

I personally think yoga is very beneficial for scoliosis and I believe my reduction in pain is due to my yoga practise (disclaimer, that’s my opinion). I really believe that by moving my spine and strengthening the muscles around it had given me a pain free day to day life.

Yoga can be adapted for Scoliosis very well, as long as we keep in mind it is an asymmetric condition and we need to adjust postures to allow for the lack of symmetry within our bodies.

In Savasana – that wonderful reclined position at the end of class where we fully relax, pop blankets under the sunken area of the back to offer extra support.

Aim to create length and space in the postures, we are not looking to correct the spine, but to create a sense of ease and space within our bodies, imagine sending your breath to the concave areas of your back.

Standing in mountain poses and inhaling to raise the arms and then imagining you are growing taller as the arms come down on the exhale is a great way to help us create the sensation of length in the spine.

Adapt postures to suit your body, for example I struggle to take a deep inhale in cow pose of cat cow, so you will often see me taking a side to side motion instead or moving between table top and child pose instead.

Go easy in twists – remember you already have rotation of your spine, so think about not twisting quite so deeply

Despite it costing me my hairdressing career, in recent years I have never let my scoliosis limit me and if you have scoliosis neither should you. If you think yoga could benefit you get in touch, I offer supportive, inclusive classes for everyone, you would be so welcome, and don’t worry… I’ve got your back!

Loads of love


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