In his own words: living with scoliosis
As told to Virginia Mansfield
Jim was diagnosed with a mild form of scoliosis when he was 20 years old. With the help of physical therapy and moderate exercise, he is able to manage the scoliosis while maintaining a very busy lifestyle as the owner of a financial services business and father of two children.
What was your first sign that something was wrong? What symptoms did you experience?
Since the age of 12 or 13, everyone was always telling me to stand up straight because I was always humped over and had really stooped shoulders. I also had lots of mid to lower back problems from the time I went through puberty.
What was the diagnosis experience like?
I was about 20 years old, and recently married. I had terrible back spasms and was hospitalized for four days. They put me in traction and ran lots of test and x-rays. The doctor said I had a mild form of scoliosis.
What was your initial and then longer-term reaction to the diagnosis?
It was actually a relief. I actually had a reason for the way I felt, and was able to make some changes in my life to make a difference. I was glad to finally know what was wrong. I’m just thankful it isn’t any worse than it is and that I can mange it well.
How is the scoliosis treated or managed?
Following the hospitalization, the doctor didn’t prescribe anything, other than watching it closely to see that it doesn’t worsen. I was able to get connected with a chiropractor that I would see on a pretty regular basis. I also stopped running and playing basketball. I don’t do any skiing, tennis, racket ball, or sports that require lots of twisting. I lift weights 2 to 3 times per week, building strength in my lower back and abdominals. I also average about a hundred miles on my bike a week. I have a bike that is built for me to sit upright instead of leaning over. I’ve learned to protect my posture as much as possible.
I do physical therapy twice a month, get an hour and a half deep body massage once a month, and see my chiropractor once or twice a month.
Did you have to make any lifestyle or dietary changes in response to having scoliosis?
Giving up basketball was really tough for me. But I would come home from playing and would have terrible back spasms. It would take me weeks to recuperate, and I would require so much physical therapy, just to start feeling better. It just wasn’t worth it. That’s when I took up biking. It’s so much easier on my back. It doesn’t have the constant pounding that comes with basketball and running. I work hard at keeping a healthy weight. I know if I were overweight, it would put more strain on my back. The biking really helps to keep the weight off.
Did you seek any type of emotional support?
No, not really. My wife was also relieved to know what was causing the back spasms. She’s very supportive with the few restrictions I have.
Does having scoliosis have any impact on your family?
Not really. I’ve never been a dad that throws their kids up in the air, and I have to be careful when I go out and play football with my 6-year-old son. But other than that, they all pretty much understand what I can and can’t do. Fortunately, we have family that live nearby that can help my wife with projects that require heavy lifting, and we’ve always have had friend that helped us when we’ve moved.
What advice would you give to anyone living with scoliosis?
Learn as much about it as you can, and get the proper medical help you need. I would recommend getting in a routine of moderate exercise and maintain a healthy weight.
Interviews were conducted in the past and may not reflect current standards and practices in medicine. Talk to your doctor to learn more about how this condition is diagnosed and managed today and what treatment approaches are right for you.
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