“There’s nothing we can do.”
At the age of 21 those were the words said to me by my orthopedist. I had been diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 15,and it had developed into a triple curve starting in my neck and finishing at the bottom of the shoulder blades. Five vertebrae had naturally fused together. It was slight enough, that no medical intervention was warranted, yet severe enough that I was in pain every day of my life and experienced muscle spasms at least once a week. When it was really bad my right shoulder would sit 2-3 inches lower than my left shoulder. That combined with several traumatic back injuries, left me in pretty bad shape. Living like that, for the rest of my life was not an option for 21 year old Kat. So when he said that, I was furious.
The fact that he said it in such a supercilious, “what did you expect?” Tone made it worse. I wanted to grab him by the lapels and tell him that that was unacceptable, and he better come up with something to do to help me! Thankfully, I refrained from doing that, because all he had to offer was sending me back to the physical therapist- been there, done that 5+ times – or a radical surgery installing rods in my back to force my spine to be straight. At the time, that seemed like a good option. Now I thank my lucky stars, that we didn’t go that route.
Instead of physically assaulting my doctor, I showed my frustration by storming out of the office. Then I did my own research, and landed on Pilates. I read accounts of people using Pilates to lesson their back pain, and I latched onto the idea like a life saver. I found a studio that was willing to take insurance where I could take private lessons, got the aforementioned orthopedist to write me a prescription and dove in head first. My trainer specialized in rehabilitation and she was amazing. It took a year of painstaking practice and patience, but eventually we got the five vertebrae in my back to un-fuse. It then took another seven-ish months before I could articulate between each one independently.
Over the next three years, I worked my way up from Practicing three hours a week to over twenty hours a week while training to be a Pilates instructor. For the first time in over 10 years, I would have pain-free days. From a skeletal viewpoint, I was doing great. The muscles in my back, however we’re still pretty pissed off and it became obvious that I couldn’t sustain the schedule that I was doing. That combined with the conflicting hours of a new job meant that I had to drop out of school before I got my full Pilates certification.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I was still doing pretty well skeletal wise, but the muscles were worse. It was also around this time that I found myself working as a manager for a MAssage Envy, and I happened to be the only manager that liked deep tissue massages. Therefore, whenever we had a therapist who was applying to be a deep tissue therapist, I took the interview . . . The interview consisting of an hour long deep tissue massage. For a couple of months when we were short-staffed I was getting upwards of two massages a week. Awesome! It was also there that I met an exceptionally gifted massage therapist, who I still go to now. Because of all of that, the muscles in my back finally calmed down enough that muscle spasms became a once-in-a-great-while occurrence, instead of a weekly occurrence. Whoo-hoo! My sciatica Problems also went away. Double Whoo-hoo!
Now this is not to say, that my back is now totally better, but I do get pain-free days and even weeks sometimes. It’s only when I skip the daily maintenance of stretching, Pilates, yoga and skip my monthly massage. I still have to do all of that to maintain, and when I slack off I usually wind up at the chiropractor,which happened last week. But here’s the thing, I wound up seeing a new chiropractor (because he had an evening appointment available) and he did a full examine to start out, including a scoliosis check. To which he reported, that there were no signs of scoliosis left in my back. The triple curve is now totally gone. SCORE! My back still hurts, and it’s something that I will deal with for the rest of my life, but my biggest obstacle is now gone, and I figured that was worth celebrating!
Also, take that Mr. Orthopedist nay-sayer man!