My Journey Living with Severe Scoliosis

Over two years ago, I sat at my desk crying. My back hurt so badly that I couldn’t bear the pain. Waking up became increasingly difficult. Long commutes were a nightmare, and the thought of sitting for long periods made me cringe. It was painful to wear certain clothing and even more excruciating to maintain a normal work schedule. At 23 years old, I never pictured myself living with chronic pain. How did I get here?

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While I’ve been lucky to appear “normal,” I have lived over half of my life with severe scoliosis, which often remains invisible and misunderstood by the public.

My whole life I have been an overachiever, pushing myself past my limits, partly because I love a challenge, and partly because I wanted to hide the fact that I have a severe scoliosis. I just finished my finance degree. I can run marathons. I act in theater and on camera. There’s absolutely nothing wrong, I told myself. Except at one point, the pain was too much to ignore anymore. 

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My whole life, I’ve been a long-distance runner despite my scoliosis. In college I ran cross country, and over a year ago, I completed the San Fransisco Half Marathon.
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The performing arts are a huge part of my life. I’ve always loved theater and acting, and I never let my disability get in the way.

Although on the outside I appear to live a normal life, my x-rays reveal something different. With a 50-degree lateral curve in my spine, I’m part of the 2-3% of the population that suffers from scoliosis.  While the spinal deformity affects about seven million people world-wide, most people live with a curvature of 15-degrees or smaller. However, I’m part of the .1% living with a curve of my severity. Because a lot of people with severe curves get surgery, I found myself struggling to manage pain and find proper treatment for my condition.

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This is the actual x-ray of my spine. Although I appear normal in photos, my x-ray reveals a 50-degree lateral curve, known as idiopathic scoliosis. There is no known cause or cure for my condition.

While some doctors poked and prodded at me like I was some kind of science experiment, others simply brushed off my “curve in the spine” telling me it didn’t hurt. Behind closed doors, I silently suffered without the courage to speak up about my pain, even to friends and family. At that point in my life, it became obvious that scoliosis is largely invisible and misunderstood by both the medical community and public.

The symptoms go far beyond a simple spinal curve. Scoliosis is a complex disorder that is categorized as a disability of the spine. Patients offer suffer from chronic pain, chronic fatigue, headaches, muscle spasms, anxiety, and depression. The spinal deformity can also contribute to low self-esteem and body-image issues due to uneven shoulders, hips, and abnormal back curvatures.

With Scoliosis, each day is different. You have days when you feel completely great, and other days when you cannot get out of bed. It takes a lot of work and lifestyle changes to live a functional life with my degree of scoliosis.

How it Began: My Diagnosis and Early Scoliosis Treatment

When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed with scoliosis soon after my doctor discovered that my sister had an acute curve of 15 degrees. After that, it became a slew of x-rays and bracing until I was 18 years old. I wore a plastic back-brace under my clothes l for 18 hours a day, only taking it off for sports and activities.

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This photo was taken around the same time I was diagnosed with scoliosis (7th grade). I worked very hard to maintain a normal social life and activities, even though I wore a back-brace 18 hours a day.

While the bracing sounds like it would have been a miserable experience at school, it rarely bothered me. Most of the time, it wasn’t noticeable under my clothes. My friends and I actually had fun decorating it with stickers and taking turns trying it on, which seems kind of odd to me in retrospect. But hey, maybe it was just in style then (LOL).

Fast-forward to my college years, and I starting seeing a chiropractor for increased pain and chronic headaches. I ran cross-country and stayed very active on campus, which helped keep pain levels down most of the time. However, long hours studying would irritate my back and cause muscle spasms and headaches that lasted for days, and sometimes even weeks at a time.

After college, I began a career in corporate finance that required long hours sitting and traveling cross-country. This is when my pain levels increased and my health really began to suffer. My once active lifestyle turned into a sedentary one that only allowed one workout a day. I began researching alternative treatments to surgery and seeing chiropractors on a regular basis.

There’s Help: You Don’t Have to Live with Chronic Pain

Now, almost three years later, I’m happy to say that I’m functional again and enjoying life, my energy has improved and the muscle spasms have decreased.

Through the support of my doctors and physical therapists, I have learned how to communicate to others about my scoliosis and my limitations. I have learned that I do not have to suffer with chronic pain that limits my quality of life.

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After 13 years of being diagnosed with my condition, I’m finally learning to live pain free with scoliosis.

When an instructor in a yoga class or workout class singles me out for my posture, I feel comfortable letting them know I have scoliosis. There’s no shame in my disorder. My body cannot do everything perfectly, and that’s okay.

Finding the right doctors have been crucial on my journey. After years of trial and error, I’m thrilled to be working with Danielle and Jessica of Battle Born Health, who specialize in one-on-one total body restoration, undictated by insurance company mandates. This has allowed for a personalized experience that is tailored to the needs of my curve. After just a few weeks of treatment, I’ve noticed many improvements in mobility, posture, and overall functionality. I’m excited to continue treatment and see what improvements are made to my health.

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Living with scoliosis isn’t easy, but it has made me a stronger person, inside and out.

These days, life has become less about being perfect, and more about learning to do what’s best for my body.

My spine may never be straight, and I may never be able to do a perfect push-up. But, I have so much more than that. I have gained the strength and confidence to live my best life—curves and all.

I hope you’ll follow me on my journey as I share my story and progress of living a full and active life with scoliosis.

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