My family has a history of scoliosis. I was diagnosed with scoliosis toward the end of elementary school, but was not directed to wear a brace. I gave a half-hearted attempt at some of the exercises I was taught but did not stick with them. My brother, who also suffers from scoliosis, had Harrington rods put in his back when he was in high school and he still had pain and discomfort. I didn’t want to choose a surgical option so I never treated my scoliosis.
In May 2014 I was 38, and despite repeated episodes of back pain and injuries, I was stubborn and would not seek treatment. Instead I chose to medicate my pain with Naproxen. I continued to push myself through strenuous weight-lifting exercises and long-distance runs to try and strengthen my back and my core.
By September I was again suffering from one of many back injuries and was consuming 3,000 mg of Tylenol a day. I could not get up off the floor. I had great difficulty and sharp pain trying to get into the car. I could barely bend over to tie my shoes. I could not run or jump. I began to have hip pain also. When I walked with my boys holding my hand, if they pulled me in any direction, it was painful and I got angry. More and more, I was becoming irritable and depressed. My back spasm was unrelenting; it was my body telling me to seek treatment.
Seeking help with the military clinic, I was given muscle relaxers and full spine X-rays. The X-rays revealed at least a 50 degree lower curve and about a 30 degree upper curve, and significant kyphosis (shoulder rounding). After the X-rays, I was sent to an ortho-spine surgeon, who said there is nothing I could do about my scoliosis, but to come back and see him if the pain is so bad that I would want surgery.
Choosing the non-surgical route I continued to suffer in daily pain through two different providers, two different chiropractors and two different treatments with physical therapists, where I could not perform most of the exercises. I would use crutches to walk so that my body weight could hang partially off the crutches until I could support myself to stand and walk again. During my day, I would lie down on a pad at my lunch break in order to make it through the rest of the day.
Frustrated, in January 2016 I went to see Downey, at my own expense. I quickly realized I had been completely ignorant of my condition and how to breathe or move with scoliosis. In the first session, Downey printed color pictures of me doing the exercises, and began building a binder of exercises I could perform at home. After 4 sessions, conducted over a 2-week period, I felt much better. After 7 sessions over about 6 weeks, I began to stand up straighter and gain control of my life again.
Now it is July and I am living in South Korea. I am doing the exercises Downey taught me every day, and seeing a Schroth therapist for an hour a week where I get some hands on work and some assisted stretching. I can now get through my day, carry my laptop bag to work and back, without having to crawl into bed when I get home.
I had another full spine X-ray done last month (June 2016) and although my curve has not changed, it is not expected that someone my age would see significant changes, what has improved is my “center line.” Between October 2015 and June 2016, I have been able to “center” myself to a great degree.
I think this is the underlying lesson for me in regards to the benefit of Schroth therapy. Living with scoliosis for me meant living increasingly “off center.” This has a dramatic affect on the quality of life. Those painful days from October 2015 to February 2016 when I kept “falling” into holes as I walked were really due to being off center. Being over 40 and having a 50-degree lower curve is a daily battle against the effects of gravity. Schroth Therapy is helping me counter those effects.
I would recommend anyone with scoliosis to seek treatment from Downey rather than remaining ignorant of their condition as I did for so long. I would highly recommend anyone with children to seek this treatment. Finally, I would recommend anyone with scoliosis to have a full-spine X-ray and seek a Schroth trained physician before joining the military or doing any other activity that places impact on the spine. I believe men can have a greater degree of curvature and not have pain, but the daily pounding taken on the spine will eventually catch up to them. It’s not worth it, for quality of life.