History of Scoliosis – A Personal Tale

This is a bit of a long one, but bear with me. It’s a thorough background on my spinal history and a bit entertaining, at least to me!

My scoliosis snuck up on me like a shadow in the night. I was 14 and it was the spring of my 8th grade year. I was dancing and teaching dance 3 days a week and getting ready for high school field hockey starting that summer. I mention this so you can see how active I was at this time.

So my mom, being awesome, took me out of school one day so we could drive up to a really nice mall an hour away and do some spring shopping with another mother/daughter duo. We pull into the parking lot, I feel stiff but open my door and look at my mom and ask “Do I look crooked?”. My right shoulder and ear were touching – she thought I was joking. I literally couldn’t move a centimeter from this position, but neck pain be damned, I was at the mall!

We went on with the day thinking it would ease up. I learned pretty quickly that I wouldn’t feel pain as long as I stayed looking straight ahead and didn’t try to relax my shoulder. I vividly remember trying on a shirt at Delia*s (oh yeah – star and all) and my mom had to help me get it off. She thought doing it quickly like a Band-aid would be best. The scream I released would say otherwise. Cue the tears and a very guilty mother. We tried a quick neck massage in the middle of the mall – yeah, that ended quickly.

On the way home she called her chiropractor and we got in for an immediate appointment. A horrified doctor and a couple x-rays later, Scoli and I were officially an item. Somehow, SOMEHOW, my back had rotated around and bent itself over. During the car ride. To the mall. What.

I didn’t go to school for almost 2 weeks because every teeny tiny movement my neck accidentally made sent me into tears. I almost missed my dance recital but thankfully after many trips to the chiropractor, muscle stim, a little physical therapy and a lot of patience I went back to straight.

I’ll glaze over the next few years quickly – I played a sport every season of high school and continued to dance throughout. I started crew my freshman year and loved it. I was stroke seat for a while but started developing this super awkward lean so I moved to another seat so I could watch someone else’s body. I continued seeing my chiropractor but not super regularly. I went to college and stopped playing sports. A couple years later I joined the Annapolis Rowing Team and I could feel the strain in my back, nothing bad just something I needed to pay attention to. As a poor college graduate with crappy insurance, a chiropractor was not on my to do list. When I stopped spending so much time in Annapolis, I left the team and pain was gone.

A couple years after that I moved to Charleston and decided to start seeing a chiropractor because my back was really bothering me and it was starting to affect other body parts – like my knees and shoulders. We went over my history and did some x-rays and she was shocked that I could walk without any pain. That beautiful twist and rotation was back! I started seeing her 3 times a week for like a month. I was feeling so much better, so what did I do? Joined the Charleston Rowing Club. I could feel that lean coming back so I had to concentrate really hard to stay straight. I kept switching which side I rowed on so I could give myself a bit of a break.

One morning, I wake up and, still lying in bed, point my toes real hard and give my body a good stretch, then POP! I can’t move, the dogs are jumping around and I’m in tears. My husband calls the chiropractor and schedules me to come right over. I love my Tempurpedic, except on this day. It was so hard to roll out of that squish without moving my neck. Finally, we get me to standing upright and there goes my right shoulder to my ear. Stuck.

We roll up to her office and she comes running out and I’m in tears. All I could think about was 14 years ago and how I couldn’t believe this was happening again. After she checked me out and did her doctor-y thing to my neck we had the diagnosis. Torticollis. Yes, what is typical of babies. I am just so special. After less time than the first episode years before, she got me back to normal. Phew!

I decided I really need to take care of my back since it is the epicenter of our lives and I really never want surgery. I obviously need the professional help so I see her once a week. I stopped rowing because I don’t think my back can handle it and I am very cautious to always hold my back strong, especially lifting weights, and to take it easy when I can feel it getting angry.

So that’s my history of scoliosis! I don’t think I’ll ever get totally over it but I can manage it and keep it from getting worse. As I learn more about it and find ways to help alleviate pain, I’ll share my tips. My biggest takeaway is to take care of your spine! It connects everything in your body and taking it for granted is such a scary thing.

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