Camping with scoliosis

Camping is a great way to get in touch with nature and really enjoy the great outdoors. It can help give your mental health a positive boost, and it gives you a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

For people with scoliosis, though, camping can cause a lot of worries. Will I be able to sleep? Will I be able to go on long walks? What if I need to go home?

Roughing it in the wild without any pain or discomfort might seem like an impossible dream for those of us with curved spines, but there are a few things you can do to help make your camping experience more enjoyable.

1. Keep doing your scoliosis exercises. As you know, we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic promote an exercise-based system of scoliosis treatment. If you are able to, we recommend that you visit us for treatment before going on your camping trip. Our ScolioGold therapists will teach you some vital exercises that you can do to improve your mobility and comfort while you are away.

2. Take a few extra pillows with you. Having extra pillows will make it easier to support the parts of your body that are aching when you go to sleep. Try placing a pillow between your legs to help straighten your spine. Aligning your spine in this way can really help to reduce pain for the next day.

3. Take a soft, thick roll mat or blow-up bed. This will put something between your back and the ground when you lie down to go to sleep. If you're already struggling with back pain due to your scoliosis, lying on uneven ground is likely to accentuate it further. Outdoor stores sell plenty of comfortable, lightweight mats and inflatable beds that are ideal for camping trips.

4. Pack lots of blankets and warm clothes. If you're camping in the summertime (at a music festival, for instance), this tip may seem a little counter-intuitive. But even if it's hot during the day, the temperature will drop dramatically after dark, and sleeping in cold temperatures can cause your muscles to tense throughout the night. Keeping warm during the night will help you to achieve a better range of motion when you wake up in the morning.

5. Ensure you have comfortable hiking boots with ankle supports. Investing in a high-quality pair of hiking boots will prevent knee and back pain during the day. It's generally advised that you wear them in a little before embarking on your trip into the great outdoors - you don't want to give yourself blisters!

6. Choose your backpack wisely. There are hundreds of backpacks for you to choose from. Spend some time trying different ones on and getting an idea of what's comfortable for you. If your shoulders or hips sit unevenly, adjust the backpack straps to compensate. This will help the backpack sit straighter on your back and reduce discomfort throughout the day.

7. Take painkillers with you. One drawback of venturing into the wilderness is that you can't just pop to the shops if there's something you've forgotten. If you think your scoliosis pain will become too overbearing to sleep through, put some painkillers in your rucksack before you set off. Your doctor can advise you on the best medication to take with you on your camping trip.

8. Have a backup plan. Although you might find camping a breeze for the first night or two, things may get harder the longer you stay away from home. It's OK to end the trip early if needs be, but be sure to have a plan in place that will enable you to get home if you decide you've had enough. This will put your mind at ease and allow you to enjoy your camping holiday to the maximum.

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For people with scoliosis, low self-confidence and insecurities about one's physical appearance are all too common. Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we want to promote positive body image and inspire everyone with scoliosis to wear whatever they feel comfortable in.

That being said, we understand that finding clothes to fit your body can be a struggle when you have a curved spine. You may have uneven shoulders, prominent ribs, or some other kind of asymmetry, and as a result, you might find that standard skirts and trousers don't sit properly, or that dresses and shirts fit your body in a strange way.

But there are ways to overcome these problems. Here are some summer clothing tips for people with scoliosis!

 

Male and female clothing models

Cover-Ups

One of the easiest ways to accessorise your summer outfit so that your curvature is less noticeable is to throw on a jacket or casual shirt. This is a great option if you already own some clothing that you don't feel 100% confident wearing.

For the time being, you can use your jacket to give you a little bit of extra coverage, and if you find yourself feeling adventurous and decide to show off your new T-shirt or cute crop top, your jacket can easily be removed! Lightweight flannel shirts, denim jackets, soft leather jackets or a shawl are all ideal options for warm summer days.

 

Woman in loose, floaty clothing

Loose and Floaty

Another good way to help reduce the visibility your curve is to wear clothes that don't cling to your body. This works in your favour when the temperature is high - loose, floaty clothes are the best at keeping you cool while still looking effortlessly stylish!

For ladies, babydoll dresses, T-shirt dresses, wide leg trousers, and lightweight blouses are all perfect options (and they're always on-trend). For men, linen tops and oversized T-shirts are sure to do the trick. Choose a print, colour or design that makes you feel good and you'll be suitably covered without looking frumpy or boring.

 

Summer footwear

Comfortable Footwear

Comfortable summer footwear is a must if you have scoliosis - or even if you don't! Try and choose something cushioned that offers support whilst still being breathable. If you're heading out with family or friends, you don't want to jolt your spine and potentially cause yourself severe pain because you've chosen inappropriate footwear.

Flip-flops and sliders don't offer very much support, and your feet can slip around in them a lot. They also tend to have very thin soles, which don't provide ample cushioning. Ideally, you want to choose a shoe that covers your whole foot and also has a cushioned sole to reduce the likelihood of a harsh jolt.

Canvas slip-on shoes like those pictured above are ideal and look great on both men and women. Similarly, good quality sandals with chunky ankle straps will support your feet and ankles while still letting your feet breathe. Another excellent choice for both men and women.

We hope that these summer clothing tips will help you to feel like your best self when temperatures soar this summer. Of course, if you would like to start working towards reducing your scoliosis curve using exercise-based therapy, we can also help with that!

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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.

 

More Q&A posts:

Scoliosis can affect the body in a number of different ways and with varying severity.

For example, significant spinal curvature and rotation can sometimes affect lung function, leaving the patient short of breath.

Spinal rotation and lung function

How does spinal rotation affect lung function?

According to the Thoracic Institute at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children's Hospital, "spine rotation causes a windswept thorax, with both restriction of the volume of the convex hemithorax and restriction of the motion of the involved ribs".

In other words, scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine can limit your movement and inhibit the inflation of your lungs.

As a general rule, the more severe the angle of trunk rotation (ATR), the more severely your respiratory system may be affected. This can be particularly noticeable during periods of activity and exercise, which may leave you feeling short of breath.

Can lung function be improved?

Despite this correlation between spinal rotation and lung function, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Our ScolioGold treatment programme can provide relief for people with scoliosis, even when it is so severe as to affect the patient's lungs.

The Scoliosis SOS Clinic's own research has shown that treatment via the ScolioGold programme can improve a patient’s forced vital capacity (i.e. the amount of air that can be forcibly exhaled from the lungs after taking the deepest breath possible).

However, due to the retrospective nature of the study along with other contributing outside factors, the improvements cannot be fully attributed to decreasing ATR. Nevertheless, it’s an encouraging statistic and shows how ScolioGold can be beneficial for scoliosis patients seeking non-surgical help.

Non-surgical spine treatment

What is ScolioGold?

ScolioGold therapy is a treatment programme that combines the Schroth method with myriad other tried and tested therapeutic techniques from across the globe.

Continuously monitored, modified and developed, the ScolioGold programme is constantly evolving to include the latest advancements in non-surgical treatment.

Learn More About ScolioGold   Book a Consultation

Food

It's important to eat healthy whether or not you have scoliosis, but it might be especially important if you do.

Below are some quick tips that are worth bearing in mind if you have a curved spine. For more general information about a balanced, nutritious diet, visit the NHS Eat Well website.

Dietary tips for people with scoliosis:

  • Avoid foods that contain lots of chemicals and additives - these can cause excessive inflammation
  • Avoid overly salty foods - eating too much salt can cause you to lose calcium through your urine
  • Avoid sugary drinks and soda - they inhibit the body's ability to absorb calcium
  • Don't drink excessive amounts of alcohol - drinking too much alcohol can lead to reduced bone mass
  • Don't drink too much caffeine - excessive caffeine can cause your bones to lose calcium

Here are a few specific items that should ideally be enjoyed in moderation only:

  • Pork
  • Soy products
  • White flour
  • Fast food
  • Processed meats
  • Caffeinated tea and coffee

Don't worry, though - there are plenty of delicious foods that can be very beneficial for people with scoliosis, including:

  • Healthy fats like avocados, coconuts, egg yolk, and lots of nuts!
  • High-quality protein from grass-fed animals.
  • Herbal teas and fresh vegetable juices.

If you or your child are suffering from scoliosis, please don't hesitate to contact the Scoliosis SOS Clinic. We specialise in exercise-based treatment for scoliosis and other spinal conditions - get in touch now to arrange a consultation.

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