Scoliosis – a lateral curvature of the spine.
Traveling and scoliosis are two very important things in my life and with very little on the internet about the emotional and personal side to scoliosis, I decided to write about it.
I have a double curvature like an S shape around 58degrees & 63 degrees.
Just to get an idea of the curvature.
Everyone with Scoliosis has a different curvature, at different stages in the their life with different personal stories. The pain can vary from person to person and I can only write from my experiences and story.
A little on the beginning.
I was 14 when my ex boyfriend noticed my back wasn’t quite even. I spent hours in the mirror that evening doing all sorts of moves and positions. He was right, my back wasn’t quite straight.
After research, scans and appointments at the hospital, I soon got diagnosed and signed to a surgeon to talk about the future possibilties.
I was petrified.
I’d never even broken a bone, never rushed to the hospital or suffered any major problems and I was being told I need life changing surgery for a major condition.
I had two major curves classed as serious however they are not life threatening and won’t cause any internal damage.
Options were limited.
A brace wasn’t an option as the curvature was already too severe and I didn’t have too much growing left.
The first X-ray my parents and I had seen, well, none of us could believe it was even possible that was me.
My dad couldn’t believe his daughter’s spine could be so, curved.
As I was training for dance school surgery wasn’t an option.
A very long, intense procedure screwing rods into each vertebra down my spine and attaching metal rods and screws to hold my ‘new’ straight back in place.
There are several approaches to scoliosis surgery, but all use modern instrumentation systems in which hooks and screws are applied to the spine to anchor long rods. The rods are then used to reduce and hold the spine while bone that is added fuses together with existing bone.
After many chats and discussions, tears and concerns, my family and I were slightly against the process and decided to just focus on my dance and healthy future.
It was one heck of a recovery process which would have included full-time constant care and a very intense year of getting back to normal life. I would then have many restrictions on my back movement and miss out on certain things in life.
As years went on and turning into an adult, it’s been a world wind of feelings towards going ahead with the surgery and scoliosis in general.
When I finished my dance training the truth of my scoliosis was more of a reality.
I knew I wanted to travel the world once I did my first season abroad in Malia.
I had things I wanted to do, experiences to have and future plans for myself, I didn’t seem to have the time to take a year out of life for surgery.
I only have a certain amount of time before surgery will almost be pointless. As my back tightens and stiffens once I’m fully grown, it’ll take longer to recover and have less impact on the movement of my spine.
I started traveling the world when I was 18. We had family trips to destinations including India, Canada, Thailand backpacking with the parents and my younger sister, I’ve had the travel bug ever since.
Travel involves long flights, random places to sleep including the airport floor.
Uncomfortable coaches, sharing cabs and tuk-tuks and quashing into packed buses.
Heavy rucksacks and all different kinds of exercises including long walks with my rucksack.
This can’t be good for my back?
.. but how can I go ahead with the procedure?
However. I’m then left with this crazy curved spine. A condition that no professional dance company will take too seriously. A condition that will give me all different kinds of problems throughout my life.
I’m now 22 and currently traveling around the world, solo.
I’m incredibly happy and free.
My surgeon told me before I left to start a world trip, to concentrate on the certainty. Travel.
I am having unforgettable experiences, unteachable lessons, a new friend everyday.
I am determined to travel.
Wait, I need to carry my life on my back.
Lots of walking, hard wooden beds, heavy luggage. Long journeys and little comfort.
I’m now even stacking boxes and bananas for my second year visa work.
16kg boxes of bananas being moved onto pallets for 8 hours each day. Packing up to 5,000 boxes a week on my own.
Straining back? Hell yes.
Wouldn’t anyone have a sore back?
What helps me travel with Scoliosis?
I travel with a teddy, however, any small pillow or head rest is great to take the pressure off your back. Sometimes even resting a piece of clothing in the middle of your back takes away pressure on long journeys. My teddy, ‘Grumpy’ is a great neck rest and of course, a great comfort to me.
4 hour trip to Cairns/ Australia
Due to scoliosis, I do suffer pain and discomfort. I do get back ache and my back looks uneven and unbalanced all the time. Having a few tablets of Anadin or other pain relief can help take the ease out of the real discomfort however I very rarely take any form of tablets or pain relief. I have found personal ways to reduce discomfort which works for me.
If you suffer from discomfort after sitting for too long during flights, let the airline know and they may offer you some extra space or somewhere to stretch out. It’s important to be able to stretch your back out as it easily stiffens, I find discomfort gets worse if I am sat for too long.
Clothes. So of course, clothes can look uneven on my upper half and certain tops & bras just don’t sit right. There are clothes I feel extremely uncomfortable wearing, but doesn’t everyone? I try and buy clothes that don’t draw too much area to bumps and curves.
I find when traveling there are loads of cheap, beautiful baggy and loose clothes that are easy to pack and look great wondering hippy towns and idyllic beaches. As the weather is pretty humid in so many parts of the world, light and baggy clothing is always great to have and sold almost everywhere.
40degrees checking out Penang’s street art // Malaysia
When those bikinis come out, I have no choice but to reveal my back.
There is nothing I can do about the way my back looks. Some people say they really can’t notice it, to me, it runs through my head constantly.
As scoliosis affects your entire skeleton, posture is important. Avoid sitting crouching over yourself. Yoga is a great way to help stretch out your back and engage good posture throughout out your life.
I find the more you know about the balance of muscles around the spine and the way your body will move differently to others, will help understand how to help the discomfort. I know lots of people who take part in physio to understand the way the body will move differently and work on certain muscles as they will be uneven.
The older I get and the more I travel, the less I concentrate on my scoliosis. The less I actually overly care about the way I look, and in some way, what anyone thinks about me.
I have found personal ways of my own to keep my back comfortable however, I have never needed much special treatment or extra care. My dance training has helped with my posture, I keep fit and healthy to protect my bone strength, cut out the booze and don’t smoke cigarettes.
I can still do everything I want to do.
I’m not sure for how long, maybe until I’m 30,50,70. I do suffer from discomfort no one else understands.
Understanding that with or without surgery it will always be a big part of my life. I may look at things differently over time.
It can’t stop you doing anything, epecially if you are determind.
There are lots of different ways of improving life with scoliosis, lots of groups and worldwide meetings on dealing with Scoliosis. Don’t be afraid to talk about it, it makes you unique. It’s good to open up about it and get the support you need.
There are hundreds of people undergoing surgery, starting there first few weeks in a brace and also, like me, just getting on with life with the condition.
Let me know your story and your tips!