After being diagnosed with scoliosis aged 14, Louise Laurie wanted to help others in a similar situation. This inspired the creation of her blog, helpformyscoliosis.com, which works to raise scoliosis awareness and inspire those living with it.
Louise kindly agreed to answer a few questions from us at Scoliosis SOS – read on to find out more about the origin of helpformyscoliosis.com and how Louise has achieved many things she thought she would never be able to do after scoliosis surgery.
Firstly, we’d love to hear a little bit about you. When were you diagnosed with scoliosis and what motivated you to start helpformyscoliosis.com?
I was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis at 14. When I was first diagnosed with scoliosis it was a huge shock. I had never even heard of scoliosis and had never had any medical conditions up to that point. Upon diagnosis, my scoliosis was very advanced and way past the point of needing surgery so at the time I was very upset – I remember thinking my life was over. I decided to start my blog helpformyscoliosis.com following my surgery to raise awareness of scoliosis, but also to inspire others with the condition. I wanted to show that having scoliosis does not mean that your life is over, far from it, and there is so much that you can achieve.
How did scoliosis impact your day-to-day life prior to any treatment?
Having scoliosis has had a huge impact on my life. Prior to treatment, I was in a lot of pain, caused mostly by muscle spasms due to the pressure of the curvature. The main impact scoliosis has had on me though is emotional and I think the impact of this, especially on teenage girls, is often overlooked. My scoliosis wasn’t hugely noticeable to the untrained eye, but I used to hate how I looked and hated being different. This had a huge impact on my body confidence and self-esteem growing up and this still affects me to some extent today.
What treatments have you had for your spinal curvature?
Over the years I have had countless treatments including physio, acupuncture, massages. At age 24, I finally decided to have spinal fusion surgery to correct my scoliosis. This was a hugely difficult decision for me and not one to make lightly. My scoliosis was severe though (I had two curvatures of over 80 degrees) and they usually recommend surgery if the curve is over 50 degrees. I was also in a lot of pain and was told that without surgery my scoliosis would progress and get even worse over time.
How did you find recovery and are you happy with the results of your treatment?
Recovery was one of the toughest and most painful experiences of my life. It took me years to fully recover as your back affects everything you do. I couldn’t bend, lift or twist for about 6 months and I had to re-learn simple things that you take for granted, like how to walk again, sit up and get out of bed.
We can see you completed a trek across the Great Wall of China last year (congratulations, by the way!). What inspired you to do this and how did you find it?
Thank you! I wanted to do something big not only to challenge myself and prove what I was capable of following my scoliosis surgery, but also to raise awareness of scoliosis and inspire others with the condition. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I met some truly amazing and inspiring people.
Many people facing the prospect of spinal fusion surgery may think they’d never be able to complete something so intense post-surgery. Could you shed a little light on how you managed to get back into exercise?
I believe you can achieve anything you put your mind to. It has taken me years following surgery to build up to the level I’m at now fitness wise. It’s definitely a slow process which can be frustrating but it’s important not to rush these things and to listen to your body. I used to go to the gym regularly before surgery and I do think that being fit helped in my recovery immensely.
I think that regular exercise is crucial if you have scoliosis, it’s important to keep the core and back muscles strong. I went back to the gym about 9 months following my surgery but all I could do at the time was walk very slowly on the treadmill. Now, I regularly run 10K races under an hour, lift weights and am completing a half marathon in May.
Do you have any similar goals for 2018?
I would love to climb Machu Picchu so watch this space! Other goals I have are to complete a half marathon and I’ve just signed up to a Tough Mudder, which is a muddy obstacle race. I just love to push myself and always have to have something in the pipeline to keep me motivated.
Finally, what advice would you give someone suffering from scoliosis at the moment?
Every case is different but I would say, mindset is everything. I used to feel so down about my back but I’ve realised that having scoliosis does not have to hold you back, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.
Be sure to follow Louise on Twitter or subscribe to her blog for regular updates.
Nobody has a perfectly straight backbone. It is normal to have slight sagittal spinal curvature that forms a sort of gentle ‘S’ shape, as shown here:
A ‘normal’ spine as viewed from the side, front and back
In this blog post, we will look at what constitutes a ‘normal’ curvature of the spine and what is classed as an abnormal / excessive curvature.
Normal Curvature of the Spine
A normal curvature of the spine appears in the neck and lower back areas of the spine. When viewed from the side, these soft curves bend forward at the neck (cervical) section and outwards in the lower half (lumbar) of the spine. These normal curvatures of the spine help to distribute bodily stress more evenly during rest and movement.
These curves balance each other out, so your head should be aligned with your hips when standing up straight. This position works to minimise the effect of gravity and allows you to have good posture when moving around.
A healthy spine with a normal curvature should still be centred on the pelvis, and more or less straight when viewed from behind. While most people have a slight sideways curve, the spine should not curve more than 10 degrees to the left or right.
Abnormal Curvatures of the Spine
An abnormal curvature of the spine can take a number of different forms, including:
If you think you may be experiencing any of these disorders, it is important to go and see a GP before the curvature progresses any further. Unfortunately, in most cases, the condition will not improve by itself and will require treatment.
- Scoliosis – Scoliosis is an excessive curvature of the spine to the left or right (or both). Common symptoms of scoliosis include uneven shoulder blades, hips and rib humps.
- Hyperlordosis – Hyperlordosis is an excessive forward curvature of the lower spine, making it appear that the patient’s stomach and rear are sticking out.
- Hyperkyphosis – Hyperkyphosis is an excessive forward curvature of the upper spine, often resulting in a ‘hunchback’ appearance.
Flat Back Syndrome
It is also possible to have an abnormally small sagittal curvature of the spine. Flat back syndrome refers to a straightening of the spinal cord, usually in the thoracic (upper) part of the spine, resulting in an overall imbalance.
The surgical methods used to treat scoliosis from the 1960s to the 1980s are often cited as the cause of this problem, but modern techniques mean that flat back syndrome is far less common nowadays. Other causes of flat back syndrome include degenerative disc disease, vertebral compression fractures, ankylosing spondylitis and post-laminectomy syndrome.
If you think you may have a spinal abnormality, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic is dedicated to treating these conditions through exercise-based physical therapy. Click here to find out more about our treatment method, or contact us now to arrange an initial consultation.