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.