The Scoliosis SOS Clinic was founded in 2006 by our Clinic Principal, Erika Maude. Erika opened the clinic because she herself had suffered from scoliosis since childhood and wanted to offer people an alternative to spinal fusion surgery.
Here, Erika answers some questions about her personal experience with scoliosis and her future plans for the clinic.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience with scoliosis?
My mother first noticed that something was wrong with my back when I was bending over one day. She took me along to our GP, who diagnosed me as having AIS (adolescent idiopathic scoliosis) but told us not to worry as I would likely "grow out of it". Over the coming months, this didn't happen, and after countless appointments back with the GP she finally convinced him that my condition was getting worse and to refer me to see an orthopaedic consultant.
The orthopaedic specialist took one look at my 34-degree curvature on an X-ray and pronounced me an immediate case for spinal fusion surgery. I eventually persuaded him to let me try the alternative: a Boston brace (hard plastic corset), worn for 23 hours per day between my 13th and 15th birthdays.
Unfortunately this didn't work, and after 2 years my curve had progressed to 42 degrees. My consultant warned me that if I didn't have surgery, I'd end up in a wheelchair.
What inspired you to set up the Scoliosis SOS clinic?
After that fatalistic prognosis from my orthopaedic consultant, my family set about finding an alternative, which eventually lead us to a tiny clinic in Spain where I went to receive treatment in 2003.
My inspiration to open the clinic came from a desire to keep people from having to go through the experience I had, and also to help the people who are failed by the lack of options available through the NHS. It is so empowering to see patients of all ages take control of their condition and care, and it's wonderful that we've been able to help so many people from all over the world.
What advice would you give someone who has just been diagnosed with scoliosis?
Definitely act promptly! Never underestimate how aggressive scoliosis can be, particularly in children. My friend recently diagnosed her granddaughter with the help of our screening video (see below), which I'd shared on my Facebook page. It was great to see the family act so quickly to get her referred for an X-ray and get started with an exercise programme while they waited for an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist.
With adults it's a little different, but depending on one's lifestyle, symptoms can still develop or worsen rapidly - that's often what has caused the condition to be noticed in the first place. Don't suffer in silence; there are lots of support groups and sympathetic people you can talk to. Our patient care co-ordinators enjoy answering questions and offering advice to patients and their families following a recent diagnosis or hospital appointment.
What are your goals for the clinic over the next year?
We are in the process of developing regional clinics to make treatment more accessible to people across the UK. Our first locations in Birmingham and Bristol opened last month, and we're planning to add further locations in early 2020.
What do you get up to when you're not working?
I love being active, so after work, I'm often to be found at Pineapple Dance Studios learning a new routine - it's a great way to forget the stresses of the day and really switch off. Such a diverse group of people attend my class, from semi-professional dancers to senior partners of City law firms; it's a brilliant way to socialise and keep fit at the same time.
When I get a bit longer out of the office, I enjoy getting out on the water. A couple of years ago I sailed across the Atlantic, but usually, it is more coastal cruising, although recently I've really got into learning about celestial navigation…
If, like Erika, you've been diagnosed with scoliosis and it's causing you distress, be sure to explore our exercise-based scoliosis treatment courses.
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