associatesMD logo

Scoliosis and the importance of weight management

misc image

Scoliosis and the importance of weight management

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month. Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that affects millions of people in the US alone. For some patients, scoliosis is a very mild condition causing almost no noticeable symptoms – people with mild scoliosis may not even know they have it. For others, moderate to severe scoliosis can cause physical deformities, pain along the neck back and hips, nerve conduction issues and more.

To get a real feel for what life is like for people with moderate to severe scoliosis, we have asked a guest writer to share some thoughts with you.

“Hi everyone! Firstly, I wanted to thank you all for taking the time to read this. I didn’t find out that I had scoliosis until I was twenty-five. However, I have had signs that something was wrong for as long as I can remember.

As a young child I clearly remember having back and hip pain. When I was seven I started to suffer what I could only explain to my mother as “butt cramps”, where the muscle of the left glute would clench and spasm uncontrollably and very, very painfully. We went to see several doctors and was told by all of them that there was nothing wrong with me aside from the fact that I was overweight. I went through school scoliosis tests in gym class yearly and passed each time.

When puberty began to set in, the pain got much worse and new symptoms began to show themselves. My hips and breasts were developing very unevenly – the right side of my body was much larger and curvier than the left. Again, doctors were quick to dismiss my complaints as being a weight problem.

As an older teen, I started trying to work out to lose weight. I quickly found out that I couldn’t do what other teens could do – not because I got winded, but because my hips and lower back would lock up on me and leave me unable to move without pain so intense that it would make me cry. Occasionally my left leg would “get stuck” in the middle of doing something and I would need help to walk for the remainder of the day. This is also about when I started noticing that my back had a distinct and very noticeable bowed shape. My confidence took a sharp dive; I gave up on going to the doctor for any help, and got lost feeling hopeless and watching my weight skyrocket.

Then came the day of my car accident. The other driver struck the passengers side of my car going approximately 65 mph. At the hospital, I was given a full body scan and told that I had, amazingly, escaped any major injury and just had some bruised muscles in my shoulder but that the impact would likely mean my scoliosis was going to worsen for a while. This was the first time anyone had told me I had scoliosis. The doctors in the emergency room were shocked by that since, according to them, it was a very pronounced case of scoliosis.

That is how I finally got answers for the chronic pain and uneven development that I was suffering. That’s also the day I looked at the scale and realized that my weight may not have been the cause of my problems, but my weight was absolutely making the problems worse by putting so much pressure on my body. At that point I weighed over 300 lbs. I am under 5 ft tall.

It took a few years of trial and error (mostly error) before finding the right combination of doctors, nutritionists and my own motivation to begin to make any real changes. As I lost weight and strengthened my muscles I noticed my hips didn’t freeze up as often or for as long. I could stand for longer. I was more flexible and much more energetic. Most importantly, in my opinion, I was able to transition myself off of several different medications.

Losing weight is hard work. There is no magic pill or injection you can take that is going to make it easy. It can be especially hard when your whole body feels like it’s screaming at you to stop. That’s why you need your doctors, though. They will monitor you to make sure you’re not actually hurting yourself. I am not done with my weight loss journey. I am still well into the obese range, but I am losing slowly and steadily and I know this is the right choice for managing not just my scoliosis, but my overall health and happiness.”