Two friends comforting each other

Scoliosis can be a painful and debilitating condition that makes even the simplest tasks uncomfortable.

Seeing a loved one go through such discomfort can be agonising to watch. However, you don't have to stand idly by - here are five simple things you can do to help someone with scoliosis today.

 

1. Be Available

People with long-term illnesses, conditions and disabilities often find it hard to ask for help.

In fact, some may actively avoid seeking outside help, preferring to deal with the problem on their own.

But even in those cases, knowing that there's a shoulder you can lean on when things get too much can make all the difference.

Being there as an emotional and physical crutch when your friend or loved one needs you is the ultimate sign of support, so don't be afraid to let them know your door is always open.

 

2. Prepare for Change

Scoliosis can cause excruciating pain at inopportune times. This can cause plans to change at the drop of hat, with last-minute cancellations a natural by-product.

While this can be somewhat frustrating, try not to make a big deal out of it. Remember, the other person is probably just as disappointed as you are, and on top of that, they may well feel guilty for letting you down.

Be understanding and reassure them that whatever it was can be rearranged for another time.

 

3. Look Past the Condition

Helping someone deal with scoliosis doesn't necessarily mean physically helping them with their daily tasks or providing them with pain relief.

In fact, helping someone with scoliosis can be as easy as helping them put it in the rear-view mirror and forget about the pain for a few hours.

Walking on eggshells and being overly aware of their ailment will only bring attention to it. Scoliosis doesn't change the person they are, so why should it affect the way you act around them?

 

4. Accept Their Tiredness

Enduring a prolonged period of pain can be exhausting. For scoliosis sufferers, even simple everyday tasks can be taxing at times.

What's more, a busy day of activities or a bad day involving a flare-up can leave them totally wiped out and feeling tired, lethargic, and generally less than 100%.

Dragging them out or pressuring them into taking part when the tank is empty can not only impact their enjoyment, but it can also impact their physical health after the fact.

Accept that when your friend or loved one says they're too tired to do something, they really mean it. It's nothing to do with you.

 

5. Mental Awareness

Like any physical ailment, scoliosis can have a negative effect on mental health, from impacting self-image to making the patient more introverted and withdrawn.

Infographic: How Does Scoliosis Affect Body Image?

Scoliosis can naturally exclude a person from taking part in things they love, such as sports and recreational activities.

Meanwhile, as previously mentioned, it can also prevent them from doing things they want to do and impact on plans made.

The result of this can have a knock-on effect on mental health, particularly if several setbacks occur in quick succession.

Be aware of mental health and, if there are signs that depression may be creeping in, don't hesitate to step in and help.

Read More: Scoliosis & Depression   Book a Scoliosis Consultation

Mindfulness meditation

At its most basic, 'mindfulness' refers to an individual's conscious presence in the here and now, focusing on the moment and one's current surroundings.

But mindfulness also extends to the way we react to situations, with a strong emphasis on maintaining a calm and calculated approach to what's going on.

"What does that have to do with scoliosis?" we hear you ask. Well, potentially, quite a lot.

 

Mindfulness and Pain Relief

According to the Dalai Lama, "if a person's basic state of mind is serene and calm, then it is possible for this inner peace to overwhelm a painful physical experience".

In other words, practising mindfulness can help us to cope with physical pain and discomfort as well as being a useful stress management technique.

 

A Brief History of Mindfulness and Scoliosis

This holistic approach to long-term medical conditions is nothing new. In fact, way back in the 4th century BC, Hippocrates was believed to have stressed the healing power of nature and said to have encouraged self-healing methods.

Additionally, it's well-documented that methods not unlike mindfulness have been in use for centuries, notably playing a big role in the ancient medical traditions of both India and China. Meanwhile, Buddhist monks have long been associated with this meditative approach to health and wellbeing.

 

Mindfulness Studies and Results

According to an article published on RelaxTheBack.com, a study conducted by the University of Montreal compared the pain tolerance of Zen monks well-versed in meditation to that of non-meditators.

The results showed that the monks' pain sensitivity rate was 18% lower, while MRI results concluded that they also had a thicker orbitofrontal cortex, suggesting that this area of the brain was responsible for meditation-based pain relief.

A further study by the University of California, San Diego found that, after completing a 20-minute mindfulness meditation session each day for just 4 days, test subjects reduced their pain response by 44%. The same test was done on another group, replacing meditation with a dose of morphine. The morphine resulted in a pain reduction of just 20%.

Additional evidence was published in the April 2011 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, which reported that 80 minutes of mindfulness meditation could cut pain perception almost in half.

 

Mindfulness and Scoliosis

So let's apply this theory to scoliosis. If the above figures are correct, theoretically, modern-day mindfulness techniques could help to decrease scoliosis pain.

What's more, the mental benefits may also help scoliosis sufferers to cope with the condition psychologically, fending off the anxiety and depression that can accompany long-term ailments like scoliosis.

 

Practice Mindfulness with Scoliosis

Stereotypical meditation positioning requires you to be sat up straight, cross-legged on the floor. This may not be very comfortable for someone with scoliosis!

Luckily, mindfulness meditation can be modified to fit your body's needs. Whether you need to use a chair, sit against a wall or lie down on your back, you're free to find the position that's most comfortable for you.

Daily meditation in a relaxed environment could be a great way to help combat the negative effects of scoliosis. At the very least, it's definitely worth a shot.

Learn about our scoliosis treatment methods >

Office chair

For many people with scoliosis, back pain and spinal discomfort are a constant nuisance throughout the day, even when sitting down. This can be especially problematic when you're in work - it's hard to get things done when you're struggling to find a comfortable sitting position!

 

Office chairs for people with scoliosis

Most office-based jobs require you to be sat at your desk for hours at a time, staring at a screen that's two feet in front of you and typing away at a keyboard - hardly the ideal seating scenario for someone with scoliosis.

In fact, according to workplaceinsight.net, an astounding 81% of us spend 4 to 9 hours a day sitting at our desks. To put that into context, that's about as much time as most of us spend asleep at night.

Sitting at your desk, locked in the same position hour after hour can lead to stiffness and soreness even if your spine is straight - let alone if you're already coping with scoliosis. Luckily, there are lots of ergonomic office chairs available for a range of budgets.

 

What's the best office chair for someone with scoliosis?

The iconic Aeron chair by Herman Miller is a good place to start.

Known globally as "America's best-selling office chair", this classic desk chair has become so well-established since its invention in '92 that it's now featured in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection.

Updated to meet the demands of the 21st century worker, the Aeron of today features "stronger and smarter materials, better adjustment capabilities, intuitive controls, enhanced aeration, and a health-positive, more comfortable sit".

That being said, such ample spinal support doesn't come cheap - the Aeron typically retails at around the £1,000 mark. Even if you're buying second-hand, it's not unusual for this chair to fetch around £500.

For a worthy substitute, the HÅG SoFi range is another great solution to your office woes and clocks in at around £700. With padded lumbar support, arm/foot/head rests and a variety of customisable features, it's a great alternative to the pricier Aeron.

 

Affordable scoliosis chairs for the office

For a more economical office solution that won't empty the rainy day fund, the Murray and Isaac ranges from John Lewis are also effective in terms of ergonomic support.

Retailing within the more reasonable £250 to £300 range, these seats feature form-comforting mesh, adjustable armrests and lumbar support, with the Isaac model also boasting a neck support for additional posture alignment.

However, if this still seems a little out of your price range, there are still plenty of other cost-effective solutions to be found online, while your local furniture shop may also have a variety of options in store to try out.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when searching for your perfect chair:

  • Look for high-back chairs with a posture curved seat

  • Adjustable arm rests and neck rests are also ideal features that can help increase comfort and relieve spinal stress

  • Additional lumbar support can also be provided with a supplemental aid if necessary

 

Specialist scoliosis chairs

While the ergonomic office chairs listed above may be suitable for those with mild scoliosis, specialist seating products may be the best choice for those with extreme / severe cases of spinal curvature.

From directed positioning of the pelvis to the use of neck and lateral supports, specialist seating can actively contribute to easing the pain of scoliosis.

Designed to reduce slumping, minimise neck flexion and promote a neutral midline from head to pelvis, specialist scoliosis chairs offer a variety of spine-straightening perks that are not found in standard seating products.

Some specialist chairs also feature "tilt-in-space" functionality, providing adjustable seat positioning to alleviate gravitational discomfort. Also known as "power tilt", this function allows the chair to achieve a recline of up to 60 degrees while keeping your hips and knees at 90-degree angles.

One great example of a specialist office chair for people with scoliosis is the DuoBack from Rohde & Grahl. This product is well worth exploring for any office worker who frequently feels the strain of scoliosis at work.

Here at Scoliosis SOS, we offer ergonomic assessments and postural seating advice to all patients as part of our comprehensive specialist treatment programmes. Call 0207 488 4428 or fill out our online enquiry form to discuss your condition further.

Read More: Coping with Scoliosis When You Work at a Desk

Non-Surgical Scoliosis Treatment from Scoliosis SOS >>

Image courtesy of Pexels

Newspaper articles about people working with scoliosis

We recently posted the following question on our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages:

 

Have you ever had any problems at work because of your scoliosis?

 

Here are some of the replies we received from our followers:

 

"Yes. I work as a vet nurse, so holding / carrying large dogs and being on my feet all day are very painful. I've had to reduce to part-time hours as I cannot cope with full-time due to constant muscular pain."

- Amy, via Facebook

 

"I'm always in pain and feeling uncomfortable, and people think I'm faking it which is upsetting."

– Florentina, via Instagram

 

"It makes things very difficult, I can't sit or stand for too long."

- Em, via Facebook

 

“I can’t do long surgeries”

– Dr Eric, via Instagram

 

"Yup, had to move desks as the desk was a wave shape and my rib cage kept catching on the desk because the wave didn't fit with my curve!"

- Debbie, via Twitter

 

"My supervisors threatened to fire me because I wasn't lifting heavy bins, etc."

– Hiba, via Instagram

 

"I've been turned down for many jobs due to scoliosis."

- Tanya, via Facebook

 

As you can see, many people with scoliosis have encountered challenges in their professional lives as a result of the condition and its symptoms.

But this doesn't mean that scoliosis has to stand in the way of your career ambitions.

 

Could ScolioGold treatment help you to achieve your career goals?

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we've helped thousands of scoliosis patients to manage their condition and continue following their dreams. Here are just a few examples...

 

Solicitor Anna

Anna Russell, Solicitor

"By the end of my time [at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic] I could already feel the benefits. My posture is much better, my shoulders more level, and my spine looks straighter. Even my back doesn't ache."

Read Anna's Story >>

 

Nurse Edie

Edie Kirkwood, Nurse

"I have now gone back to work, as a result of the treatment, which for me is such a relief. I am one of the few people who generally love their job, and the thought of being unable to continue my passion was very distressing. My life is now back to normal."

Read Edie's Story >>

 

Farmer Carol

Carol Davies, Farmer

"I suffered for a long time and now I'm standing up straight, which I certainly wasn't before...we're now planting broadleaf trees for conservation, hoping to help with the carbon footprint of the world."

Read Carol's Story >>

 

Tattoo Artist Craig

Craig Piepru, Tattoo Artist

"I was suffering on a daily basis, sometimes to the point where I just had to stop working. The pain really was draining the life out of me."

Read Craig's Story >>

 

Opera star sings praises of back pain treatment

Dame Anne Evans, Opera Singer

"I had been suffering from excruciating back problems for some time and had been advised that the only answer was surgery. My condition was aggravated by the physical activity that was an integral part of my career as an opera singer. I cannot explain how grateful I am to Scoliosis SOS. I was given a programme tailored to my particular needs...if I get a twinge of pain, instead of popping anti-inflammatory pills, I just go to the bars for a few exercises and it goes away."

Read Dame Anne's Story >>

 

Vet Nurse Josie

Josie Stone, Vet

"I am ecstatic to have found these exercises. No words can describe the relief I felt when my pain started to disappear. I have always wanted to work with animals, and the idea of having to put off my dreams and go through major surgery was terrifying. I feel so lucky to have found an answer to my problems."

Read Josie's Story >>

 

And if all of those stories haven't convinced you, consider this one final response we received to the question we posted on social media: Have you ever had any problems at work because of your scoliosis?

 

"All the time! Although much less after working with you legends."

– Faye via Instagram

 

Use the links below to find out more about the Scoliosis SOS Clinic and how we can help you to overcome the problems some face while working with scoliosis.

About Our Treatment Method   Book an Initial Consultation

Further reading: Coping with Scoliosis When You Work at a Desk

Beyond a Curved Spine is a Nigeria-based nonprofit whose goals are to raise scoliosis awareness and provide support for people with scoliosis ('Scoliwarriors', to borrow their term).

BACS co-founder Abimbola Oladapo very kindly agreed to answer some questions from the Scoliosis SOS team and tell us a little bit more about her own scoliosis story, as well as the past, present and future of Beyond a Curved Spine.

Abimbola Oladapo, co-founder of Beyond a Curved Spine 

First of all, please tell us a little about yourself - who are you?

My name is Abimbola Oladapo and I'm such a lover (haha - that's the one thing I like to be labelled as). I'm a happy person, scoliosis warrior and Nigerian.

I am also the co-founder of a nonprofit called Beyond a Curved Spine - where we advocate for scoliosis awareness - and I occasionally blog at onepowerwoman.com. Some of my favourite things to do include unravelling new places and making strangers smile.

 

What's your experience with scoliosis?

My scoliosis story started in 2004. I was about 11 years old and in Year 9. My sister noticed my back wasn't looking "normal" - it was slanted, and it showed in the way I walked. At first, she thought it was as a result of bad posture ("swag") and constantly cautioned me to "stand / walk straight and stop spoiling my posture".

Everyone thought I was trying to be cool, when it was simply all shades of scoliosis symptoms. A few months down the line...and my back was looking like a letter 'S'. At this point, it was obviously more than bad posture. I had just returned from boarding school for the Easter holidays. I'll never forget: my mum took me to the hospital and it was the first either of us would hear of scoliosis.

It's been fifteen years since then. I haven't gotten any treatment apart from bracing and exercising, although my curve isn't mild. I think I've kind of gotten used to living with an 'S' on my back - and the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with it. Sometimes I just really want to get out of my skin; other times, I feel like I've got my own back.

Overall, I think I'm at that place where I'm intentionally stronger than scoliosis. I'm positive that someday and soon, I will be scoliosis-free!

 

You came to visit the Scoliosis SOS Clinic some years ago. What did you think?

Yes, in 2011. I was visiting family in London and we'd found the Scoliosis SOS Clinic on Google. It looked really good online, so we booked an appointment and visited the clinic - I've actually still got my consultation report!

The clinic looked even better in real life. The facility was great, the staff were friendly, and reading testimonials from Scoliwarriors who'd been through the treatment was really encouraging!

I think the treatment Scoliosis SOS provide is gold (ScolioGold - ha!), and I'll advise anyone who can afford it to give it a try.

 

What inspired you to start Beyond a Curved Spine?

A number of things, actually. After being diagnosed with scoliosis in high school, I was pretty much left alone, with no resources, no information, nothing. I'd gotten a back brace from the national orthopaedic hospitals here in Nigeria, but that was about it. And it was pretty awful! I didn't know how to care for my brace or what activities to avoid. I resorted to emailing doctors abroad and reading stuff on Google.

Abimbola with scoliosis brace

Fast-forward to many years later, after I'd finished university. I started to notice more people with scoliosis symptoms. I also realised there was a huge gap! No one was talking about scoliosis in Nigeria, yet many people suffered from it. Also, there was (and still is) a cultural belief that scoliosis patients - popularly referred to as 'hunchbacks' - are suitable candidates for money rituals, because the 'hump' on their backs is as a result of stored-up mercury that creates money. I pondered a lot about these issues.

Back in high school, I noticed a schoolmate's back was looking 'funny' while in the bathroom. I alerted her immediately, and because of this, her parents were able to immediately seek information and help, which resulted in a significant control in curve growth. This schoolmate became the co-founder of Beyond a Curved Spine.

All of the above factors, I believe, make up the foundation upon which BACS was established. We are driven by the notion that:

  • Spreading awareness will dispel cultural myths.

  • Early detection gives the best prognosis.

  • Every scoliosis warrior needs a support community rooted in love and strength - no one should walk this journey alone.

 

You've made it your mission to raise scoliosis awareness. How are you achieving this?

Raising scoliosis awareness is such a broad objective! However, we do try to take it one step at a time. Following our famous slogan - "raising scoliosis awareness, one city at a time" - we execute awareness projects in selected communities each time. For example, in 2018, we targeted secondary schools (based on the target age group 10-16) in some Local Government Areas in Lagos, Nigeria. We did a tour around a number of schools in the Yaba region alone, and we reached over 5,000 students.

This year, we're running a '5,000 for 5,000' campaign with the goal of distributing 5,000 infographics across 5,000 public spaces (schools, primary health centres, etc.) in Nigeria.

Beyond a Curved Spine raising scoliosis awareness

Apart from these targeted projects, we raise awareness via social media, traditional media (radio, newspapers, blogs and TV features), and at events/gatherings where we're given the opportunity to share.

 

What are Beyond a Curved Spine's goals for the future?

Although plans may be subject to future tweaks, our goals can be summarised into three:

  • To ensure that every household in Nigeria is scoliosis-aware.

  • To facilitate support - mental support, resource materials, and accessibility to quality treatment - for scoliosis warriors in this part of the world.

  • To advocate for improved and affordable healthcare on behalf of Scoliwarriors in Nigeria.

 

Finally, what advice would you give to someone who has just been told they have scoliosis?

Don't panic! You will be fine, you will still look good, you will meet someone who adores you silly, and you will inspire other people with your story!

Beyond a Curved Spine event

Now that you've been diagnosed, seek knowledge! Talk to your doctors and other professionals. Ask questions. Get to know all you can about your condition, and get treatment early! I like to say early diagnosis is a life saver - literally!

Also, be sensitive to your body and your curve. Take note of changes, pain, and how you feel. Be serious with your treatment and medical appointments. And never ever underestimate the power of a support system! Join a scoliosis support group - surround yourself with positive vibes and positive people who are readily available to walk you through this journey.

 

And what advice would you give to that person's family and loved ones?

Being present is healing! As much as you can, be there for the person. Listen when they need to share. Listen when they say they're tired. It's nice to do some research in order to better understand what they might be going through. Hold their hands through treatment. Just stay supportive and loving!

Be careful with words. Avoid using words like 'hunchback', 'deformity', 'disease' or 'bent'. 'Curvy' is a safe word to use, all the time.

Be caring, not pitying. While it's awesome to always watch out for Scoliwarriors and help them with physical tasks, you should never throw a pity-party around them. Treat them like 'normal' human beings, because they are normal - only curvy (and curvy is beautiful, by the way!). The keywords are compassion and thoughtfulness, not pity or condescension.

Thanks so much to Abimbola for her thoughtful, insightful answers. Be sure to follow @beyondacurvedS on Twitter and visit their website for more information.

 

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