Personal Update-Physio this week

Personal update: Physio this week

Hello,

Just thought I’d write a quick post to update on me and my lovely new symptom I’ve been getting recently – leg numbness.

I first noticed that I had numb patches running down my right leg about 6 months ago. I went to see a Dr who wasn’t much use and told me it was probably related to my scoliosis surgery (that I had almost 7 years ago) and to come back if it got worse. I do have numb patches over my back already that I’ve always had but I’ve definitely not always had this leg numbness, this is a new symptom.

So I tried my best to forget about it over the next few months and carried on with life as normal. However, I noticed that it wasn’t getting any better (in fact it seemed to be getting worse) so I went back to see a different Dr.

The second Dr thought I should be referred to physio and also get checked by the orthopaedic hospital that carried out my scoliosis surgery, just to be safe. That was a couple of months ago now and I haven’t heard anything about the referral yet.

Anyway, this week I finally saw the physio. She thinks that I have something going on with the nerves at L5/S1 – they are being compressed/irritated/pinched whatever, which is causing the symptoms I’m getting.

At the moment, this is really getting me down. I think because I don’t know what is actually causing the nerve irritation. I don’t think it’s a screw or anything as my fusion is much higher up (T3-L3). I’m not getting any pain with it, just numbness and tingling and my right leg does feel weaker.

I’m going back to the Dr’s next week for an update on the referral as I’m getting myself worked up wondering what it could be. The main culprits (I think from Googling) are possibly disc degeneration or a slipped disc, but because I don’t get any pain at all I’m not sure if these are the cause.

I do know that years down the line after spinal fusion there is risk of disc degeneration in the non-fused joints, I just didn’t think it would happen so soon! I suppose I just need to wait until I see a specialist and have a scan or something but I hate waiting and not knowing. I drive myself mad on Google.

In the meantime, I’m going to do the stretches that the physio has recommended and also start swimming. I enjoy swimming but haven’t been in a while as I still feel really self conscious about my back. I bought a new swimming costume last weekend though so I’m going to force myself to go to see if it helps.

I’m also going to start Pilates. I have a Pilates DVD that the physio recommended for low back pain and have tried it out this morning.

I’m just annoyed at myself in a way because if it is something like disc degeneration or a slipped disc I may have been able to prevent it by doing Pilates and core strengthening exercises sooner. Exercises like Pilates are so important for those with spinal fusions as they can help strengthen the core and protect the lower back.

I have been to Pilates in the past but I have felt self conscious as I can’t do all of the movements and I hate getting singled out by the instructor and made to feel different. I also worry I’m doing the moves wrong due to my fused spine and will cause an injury. It’s a catch-22!

So now I’m worried I’ve caused this myself with all the high impact stuff I’ve been doing recently, without protecting my lower back properly by building a strong core.

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling on now and I’ll be sure to update how I get on with physio and if I ever get that referral.


I’d be interested to know though, if you have had scoliosis surgery, have you ever suffered with leg numbness years down the line?
Please let me know in the comments or contact me I’d love to chat to you and share stories. 🙂

Bye for now,

Louise X

6 Years Post Op - Scoliosis Surgery

6 years post op

I’ve been meaning to write this post since July because on 29th July 2016, I was 6 YEARS post my scoliosis surgery. I really can’t believe that it has been six whole years, it really doesn’t feel like it.. time goes way too fast!!Anyways, I thought I would write a quick update on how I’m feeling 6 years on, as it may interest those waiting for surgery or in the early stages of recovery.

Generally, six years on, my back feels pretty good. In the immediate months following my scoliosis surgery, I never, ever thought that my back would ever feel anywhere near as “normal” as it does now and for that I am so grateful.

I think what it highlights is that recovery from scoliosis surgery is often slow and you’ll keep making progress as time goes on.

I’ve broken the post into categories for an overview of how I feel generally at 6 years post op.

Pain

I think I’m pretty lucky in the sense that I don’t really get much back pain from my scoliosis now day to day. I get lower back pain if I’ve been walking around all day, or on my feet for a long period of time, but I think most people do. It usually feels better once I sit down. The main issues I’m experiencing all these years on on relate to muscles. As I have been gradually doing more activity (running, gym etc) I have found that I seem to be injuring myself quite easily – especially through doing activities such as running.

According to my GP and physio, the injuries and resultant pain I’m getting now relates to my muscle imbalance that is caused by my scoliosis. As one side of my back is stronger than the other, the stronger side overcompensates (when I run for example) and so I’m more prone to injury than the average person. At the moment I am trying to strengthen my back and shoulder muscles through weight training, as well as trying to keep my core strong through exercises such as the plank. Hopefully over time, I can strengthen my back and core and prevent injury when I’m doing my cardio/running! I think I’ve realised over the past 6 months how crucial strong muscles are in managing and preventing pain from injury, especially in people with scoliosis.

Flexibility

My flexibility now is pretty good! I can bend to pick things off the floor easily and have no real issues anymore (I used to use my grabber for a while after my surgery). It’s taken me years to get to this stage though. I could probably even touch my toes if my calf muscles weren’t so tight! I think the flexibility side of things really does depend on the length of your fusion – mine is T3 to L3 – so the bottom few discs are unfused which allows me to retain some flexibility. The length of the fusion depends on the location of the curve(s) and will be decided by the surgeon. Generally though, surgeons will try their best to keep as much flexibility in the spine as possible.

Discomfort

Immediately after surgery and the months that followed, I remember that the discomfort was often worse than the pain. It was constantly hard to get comfortable and I remember I was only comfortable on a straight backed chair with lots of cushions! These days, it’s really not too bad! I still find it better to sit with cushions behind me at work and generally if I’m sitting on a sofa. I also tend to avoid wooden hard backed/plastic chairs if I can because they are the worst! However, post surgery it’s more because my back doesn’t bend to fit the shape of the chair which makes it uncomfortable.

Scar

Scoliosis Scar
My Scoliosis Scar – 6 years post op

As you can see from the photo above, my scar has faded loads! You can still see it yes, but that doesn’t bother me – I’m so proud of it and everything I have been through and overcome.

Psychological effects of scoliosis

I don’t think this ever goes away completely – even after surgery. As my spine is not “straight” after surgery I am left with a residual curve and so my back does not look “normal.” Over time though (and maybe with age!!) I have honestly become less bothered by how it looks and what other people think. It used to take over my life but I don’t let it anymore. Yes I still feel self conscious, especially when swimming and things like that – it’s hard to shake – but I don’t let it take over my life anymore or dictate what I wear.

I know that not everyone is so lucky, but overall, I think my back feels pretty good 6 years post scoliosis surgery. I am constantly doing and have done lots of things I never thought would be possible post surgery and I’m very active in general 🙂

If you’d like to know anything else about how I feel at 6 years post op or have any questions please do let me know in the comments below and I’ll get back to you 🙂

Bye for now!

Louise X


Photo by kathryn

5 spinal fusion problems

5 #SpinalFusionProblems

Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% glad that I had scoliosis surgery and now, six years on, I’m definitely better off than I was before.

However, if you’ve had scoliosis surgery (and have a long fusion like me) you may be able to identify with some of these 5 awkward #spinalfusionproblems…

1. Pulling a muscle trying to paint your toenails (or fasten your strappy sandals!)

15669109347_b68d324548_m
Pic by Marc Gautier

It’s not that I CAN’T paint my toenails or fasten my strappy sandals, it’s just that it can be quite awkward and I have to sit down and sort of bend my leg in an unnatural position to reach, which usually results in me pulling a muscle in my leg!! This also applies to putting on socks and tying shoe laces. I WILL fall over if I’m not sat down!

2. Flooding the bathroom trying to wash your face

Since my surgery, I find it awkward washing my face in the sink. This is because it’s pretty difficult for me to bend right down to the level of the sink, so I usually end up squatting by the side of it and then proceeding to splash water all over the bathroom. Now I stick to face wipes, or I just wash my face in the shower.

3. Hard backed chairs = evil

6057161622_1619822c03_m
Evil chair. Pic by Elliott Brown

No, just no. Hard backed chairs should be banned! Since surgery I’m mostly comfortable sitting on stools (my rods support me amazingly well, so I don’t actually need to lean against anything) or chairs/sofas with cushions. Anything else is super uncomfortable, mostly because I can’t bend my back to fit the shape of the chair. So in hard backed chairs, I usually end up sitting forward with my body away from the back of the chair. Hard backed, plastic sun loungers are also evil and lying flat on the floor is a definite no.

4. Shaving your legs

Kind of related to point number one. It’s hard to reach and so I usually end up in awkward positions trying to reach parts of my leg, pulling a muscle again or with patches I can’t reach. One of my fellow scoliosis surgery survivor friends said she taped her shaver to a stick to make it easier for her to reach, which made me laugh..! Worth a try!!

5. Being asked to a Yoga class

7523078418_58de299c41_m
Not recommended. Pic by Sarah Siblik

Erm, awkward.


These are just a few awkward situations I have found myself in post scoliosis surgery. Big deal? Not really. Frustrating? Sometimes.  But you’ve just got to laugh at about it.

Are there any awkward situations you’ve found yourself in due to your spinal fusion? Let me know in the comments below!

Update on me: shoulder issues

Hello 🙂

I thought I’d write a post to update what is going on with my back right now – I can’t believe I’m nearly 6 years post opp (eeeek!)

So last year I started running, which I never thought I’d be able to do following scoliosis surgery. At one stage, I was running several times a week and managed to run a 10K race after only training for about 5 weeks. After this I was hooked. It felt great and so I kept doing it. I signed up to a 5K race and really started pushing myself, trying to improve my time. Unfortunately, it led to me injuring my left shoulder muscles/nerves and not being able to run for a while. Since then I’ve seen my GP, a personal trainer and two physios and the conclusion is that the injury was partly related to my scoliosis and the fact that my shoulder muscles on that side were not very strong as a result of the condition and surgery.

Because I have scoliosis and a residual curve following surgery, my back muscles on my right side are much weaker than the left side (unsurprising, as I also have a winged scapula on the right side). So what happened, with all the running and repetitive shoulder motions, my left side was having to work twice as hard to compensate for my right side, which eventually caused an injury resulting in pain and soreness in the muscles around the left shoulder blade. This pain has been ongoing on and off for about 9 months!! At one point it was so bad that I couldn’t even lift my right arm and the skin was very sore to touch.

I was starting to think I would never run again and that this was going to be a long term thing. Also I was worried about my metalwork, had I done something to the screws?

I think in all honesty, it probably is a long term thing for me but I’ve been told that I can reduce and even eliminate the pain by strengthening my shoulders through exercise and physio.

So, this is what I’ve been doing for the past 6 months or so! I’ve been focusing on exercises that target my shoulder and core muscles in order to strengthen my body so that when I’m running, it doesn’t aggravate my shoulder as much. I’ve been reassured that it is not the metalwork, as it takes a lot more than running to damage titanium apparently – it’s incredibly strong!!

Exercises I’ve been doing include…

  • The plank
  • Sit ups on an exercise ball
  • Squats using an exercise ball
  • Shoulder presses at the gym
  • Chest presses at the gym
  • Leg presses at the gym
  • Shoulder rows at the gym

I have found that already these exercises have made a big difference, my shoulder pain is not 100% better but I can feel myself getting stronger and the other day, I even managed to run 5K with no shoulder issues!!

I think the key thing to learn from this, is that running should always be supplemented by strengthening exercises to prevent injury, whether you have scoliosis or not, but it’s particularly important for those with scoliosis due to the existing muscle in-balances.

It’s safe to say I’ve learnt my lesson – I am not invincible. I am going to continue my strengthening exercises and won’t be pushing myself too hard with the running for a while!!

5 things I do because of my Scoliosis

5 things I do because of my scoliosis…

1. I constantly look at my back

When I’m at the gym, or walk past a shop window or mirror, I just can’t resist sneaking a look at my back. Sometimes, I swear people think I’m checking myself out. I’m not, I’m just looking at my back. I can’t help it. Post-surgery, sometimes it’s admiration. As in, I can’t believe how straight it looks from the side and that the rib hump is gone, even 5 years later! Although, other times, I’m worried about how it looks from a certain position and in a certain outfit.

2. I’m constantly paranoid people are looking at my back

This was far worse before surgery and immediately after surgery. It was so bad that, at the gym for example, I wouldn’t go on the machines at the front of the gym because I knew there would be people working out behind me and I’d be paranoid that they’d be looking at my back.

Now, 5 years later, day to day I don’t worry as much about this but if I’m wearing a skimpy top or bikini I will be more conscious, especially if the top shows my scar and shoulder which still protrudes slightly. I still won’t get changed in front of people (even people I’m close to) and activities such as swimming/going to the beach still make me uncomfortable as I think people are staring at my back.

In most cases though, they are probably not. As people without scoliosis probably don’t spend as much time staring at people’s backs and have their own things to worry about!

3. I get back envy

5 things I do because of my scoliosis
Back Envy…

I just can’t help myself looking at other people’s backs and wishing mine looked like theirs. Especially when I see people wearing backless dresses/tops which I have always longed to wear. I can’t help it, I think it just happens subconsciously now. The funny thing is, these people may be looking at me wishing they had something I have. I always remember a lady staring at me once whilst I was swimming and I was certain she was looking at my back. In the end, she came up to me and said: “How do you get such a flat stomach?” I’ve come to realise that everyone has their own insecurities.

4. I hate people touching my back

This is something I just can’t stand. Pre and post-surgery. Most of my back is numb so it just feels weird but some parts are quite tender. I’m also conscious of the way it looks and that my screws protrude. For this reason, I avoid back massages, so if I go to a spa, I’ll just stick to facials or manicures. I know a massage would make me highly uncomfortable and self-conscious and I’d be worried they may do some damage if they weren’t a trained physiotherapist. I do get jealous when friends go for a massage and when my back is sore sometimes I long for one, but I just don’t want anyone seeing/touching it. The closest I came was in Thailand when I went for a spa treatment and the lady saw my back and said “broken.” Yes, I am, please don’t remind me.

5. I take photos of my back

5 things I do because of my scoliosis

This was worse before surgery and immediately after. Before surgery, I took photos of my back all the time, in different positions. I was paranoid my scoliosis was getting worse and it took over my life. Around that time, I had literally thousands of pictures of my back on my laptop. I used to think, if anyone found my laptop they’d think I was really weird!

After surgery, I took photos daily probably for about a year afterwards. As I wasn’t working at the time and was at home recovering, it became an obsession. I’d stare at pictures of my back for hours, to make sure nothing had moved/changed. Not only that, I’d also constantly compare pictures of my back/x-rays to those of others who had had scoliosis surgery to see how my correction compared. At the time, I was convinced my correction was not as good as most peoples and I was actually quite unhappy following my surgery. It really was an all-consuming obsession but I think looking back, most of it was in my head.

Luckily, I’m past this stage now and I rarely take photos of my back these days (except for my blog!) Mostly I’m too busy to think about it nowadays but I’ve also accepted that the correction I got was good, that I was extremely lucky with the outcome and that I need to let go of the past and move on with my life.


The psychological side of scoliosis is so often overlooked, but I think my behaviour over the years shows just how much having scoliosis has affected me psychologically. And I don’t think I’m in alone in the way I think/behave.

If you have scoliosis, can you relate to any of the above? How has having scoliosis affected your own behaviour? Feel free to comment below 🙂

Image credit: angela c.


Pin it:

5 things I do because of my scoliosis

5 years post op

Scoliosis Surgery
Me a few weeks after surgery

So this week it is five whole years since my scoliosis surgery.

My life is very different from this time five years ago and it got me thinking about how far I’ve come since my surgery. If anyone reading this is currently facing the prospect of scoliosis surgery, or are in the early stages of recovery, I just want to reassure you that it DOES get easier and you WILL be able to achieve things post surgery you never thought were possible. It just takes time and patience.

I continue to push myself, and this week I graduated from University for the second time, with an MSc in Digital Marketing Communications (with distinction), which I have been studying towards for the past three years.

In the few months since finishing my MSc, I have also really got into running and I feel fitter and healthier than ever. In May this year year I completed my first ever 10K race for Cancer Research, in June I completed a 5K fun run (Run or Dye – really fun!) and I’ve just signed up to complete a 5K run in Manchester in September to raise money for Breast Cancer Care.

I am surprised that running doesn’t hurt my back and in the past I have always avoided it for fear of causing myself damage or causing pain. When I first started it did feel a bit strange – but now it feels fine and my fitness has improved immensely over the past few months.

I’m not saying everyone with scoliosis can / should do running (you should always check with your doctor/specialist) BUT I’m saying that having scoliosis should NEVER hold you back, or stop you from trying something, and that you should always feel like you can do anything you put your mind to.

After 5 years, yes I get the odd bad pain day, but on the whole I feel better than ever and my flexibility has also continued to improve, which after surgery I didn’t think would be possible.

I don’t know how long this will last and whether I’ll get more pain in the future but as a result, I am determined to enjoy my life while I can and I will always continue to push myself to achieve for as long as I am physically able to.

IMG_0774
Taking part in Run or Dye 5K in June 2015


Here’s to the next five years!

Louise xx

3 years post op!

Today I am three years post op from my scoliosis surgery and I really can’t believe how fast that time has gone. So much has changed in the last three years and I’ve come so far, I am now very busy studying an MSc course whilst working full time – hence why I havent updated my blog for a while! I’ve been so busy getting an assignment done this month that I almost forgot that it was my three year scoliosis surgery anniversary. In a way, I think that’s a good thing as it shows that my back doesn’t rule my life anymore.


So how does my back feel at three years post op? I think in all honesty it’s still improving. In the past 6 months I’ve noticed that I seem to have got some of my flexibility back that I thought was gone forever. 

Yes, I still can’t bend the fused part of my back (T3-L3) BUT I can bend from my hips and recently I’ve noticed that when I’m sitting down I can bend like I used to before surgery to pick something off the floor! This may not seem like much to some people but for me this is a big thing and it makes me so happy that I can now do this. I can also bend quite far from my waist now, although I can’t touch my toes (yet!) 

I think it just goes to show how long the recovery can take, it still surprises me the differences I notice in my back month by month – even now.

2 year post op checkup

Today I had my 2 year post op checkup. 

After scoliosis surgery you generally get seen for a checkup after 3 months, after 6 months, after 1 year and after 2 years, so this was my final post surgery checkup (hooray!) 

Like last year, it was very weird going back to the hospital I had my surgery at, it’s easy to forget what you went through sometimes but going back there again and walking past the ward I was on kind of brought it all back. 

Luckily, I managed to see my surgeon for this appointment (not a registrar) which was good news. He checked my xrays and said all the metalwork looks as though it’s in the right place and he thinks it’s fused now which is great news. 

I told him that I’m doing alot of activities post op such as going to the gym regularly, aeorbics, zumba etc and that I was worried I was doing too much. His answer was no I won’t be doing too much and that I can do anything I want to do now which is good to hear, sometimes you just need a little reassurance. 
 
What made me laugh though today was the guys who did my xrays were fascinated by them, their eyes almost popped out of their sockets when they saw them and they kept asking me loads of questions about my spine and calling me the bionic lady! Surely they’ve seen other scoliosis post op xrays before…I do like people’s reactions to them though and straight after the guy who did the xrays had seen them he was offering to carry everything for me, like I couldn’t lift a basket with my clothes in…Funny how people treat you differently after they’ve seen the xrays!

Anyway it was a good appointment overall and he said I dont have to go back again now or have any further xrays (woohoooo!) unless I have any issues. 

This is kind of a big thing for me, considering I have been having checkups on my back and xrays every year since I was 14. I’ve had more than enough xrays to last a lifetime. It’s a bit weird to think I’ll never have to go for another checkup or wear one of those fetching hospital gowns for my yearly xray again (fingers crossed).



Pain days

I don’t like to post about pain too much as I don’t want to put people off having this surgery, as I know that in many severe cases like mine, surgery is unavoidable.

However, this is an honest blog about life after scoliosis surgery and if you need to have this surgery you will be interested in what it’s really like living your life after this type of surgery.

Today has been a bad pain day. Actually the past few days have.

Honestly, I don’t get as many pain days now as I used to, in fact, I can now go months without taking my painkillers. Considering how many painkillers I took in the year following my surgery, I think this is incredible.
I believe alot of this is down to my exercising and keeping my core as strong as possible as I’ve worked really hard to get my strength back since surgery.
My pain days generally don’t stop me from doing anything. I just keep calm, take a codeine and carry on!  But these pain days do make me stop and remember that I have had major surgery on my spine, it’s so easy to forget sometimes.
I’ve been trying to work out recently what causes my pain days. Am I doing too much by going to the gym frequently and working full time? Should I rest more? I just don’t know.  These are the questions I will ask my consultant when I see him next month.
I think though, that I’ve worked out a few ‘triggers’ of my post-surgery pain over the past few months:
  • Stress I’ve been under alot of stress over the past couple of weeks and I think this is causing my back pain to flare up now. Maybe it’s the muscles tensing up I don’t know but it seems to be worse when I get stressed.
  • Cold Weather Now the summer has come to an end (I know, I know, what summer right?) I can feel the cold working my way into my back and making it tense up more.
  • Uncomfortable chairs I still need to get myself a decent cushion!! But most chairs are uncomfortable and will cause my back pain to flare up if I sit on them too long.
  • Time of the month (ladies!) for some reason my back pain gets alot worse during this time, which is odd as this never happened before surgery!
  • Being on my feet too long although I know this is also a problem for people who don’t even have a back condition and it’s usually relieved once I sit/lie down.
I would be interested to hear from other people who have had the surgery, what do you think causes your pain and how do you tend to cope?

 

Does scoliosis surgery get rid of pain

Does scoliosis surgery get rid of pain?

Does scoliosis surgery get rid of pain?

I get asked this a lot and the answer, for me, is yes and no.
People don’t seem to understand why I am still in pain after I’ve had scoliosis surgery. I think they think that as my surgery was nearly two years ago that I should be ‘recovered’ and back to normal now – whatever that is.
The truth is, that before my surgery my pain was much, much worse and I was so much more uncomfortable.

Before surgery, the pressure of my spinal curvature on my muscles gave me terrible muscle spasms/knots. Nothing would get rid of them, I had massages every few weeks, tried acupuncture, physiotherapy, heat therapy, Pilates and swimming.

It just felt like a constant intense pressure – kind of like my spine was about to snap. I also found it hard to sit unsupported e.g like on a bench/stool as I’d get pain/pins and needles in my back. Plus,I was always so uncomfortable on pretty much EVERY chair due to my rib hump.


A different kind of pain…

As soon as I woke up from surgery I knew straight away that the pain I had before surgery was completely gone. I can’t begin to tell you what a relief that was after years and years of it. My muscle knots went overnight!

My back felt supported for the first time, like I had an internal brace and I could sit unsupported comfortably for the first time. It was so amazing.

I was told by my surgeon that this surgery is not guaranteed to get rid of pain and that I could end up with a different type of pain post surgery and he was right.

I didn’t have the surgery to get rid of my pain but to stop further progression of my curves so this didn’t really bother me.


What is my pain like post scoliosis surgery?

The pain I get now post surgery is mostly lower back pain that I get after a long day at work/being on my feet for a while and is relieved instantly by lying down. 

I guess this is due to pressure on the unfused discs in my spine as they have to take the pressure that my whole spine used to take now that it’s fused. I’m currently trying to strengthen my core muscles at the gym to try and take the pressure off and I have noticed a difference since starting my exercising.

The main problem I have now is trouble getting comfortable. I’m constantly uncomfortable and I think this is because of the rods in my back my posture is constantly ‘straight’ so I cannot bend my back to mould it to chairs such as sofas as others would do. 

If I’m sat straight upright I’m usually comfortable but the problem is that most chairs don’t allow you to sit straight very easily so I’m always hogging all the cushions in the house in a desperate bid to get myself sat in a ‘straight’ position!


UPDATE

I’m now 7 years post op (where does the time go?!) and I would say my pain now is similar to how I described it in this post. The only difference now, 7 years later, is that it’s much easier to get comfortable and my back is much more flexible than it was. I remember what it was like feeling uncomfortable all the time, but I’m happy to say that I think this was mostly down to being in recovery and that, over time, this did improve.

Louise X


If you’ve had scoliosis surgery, how has it affected your pain? Let me know by commenting below 🙂

Pin it:

Does scoliosis surgery get rid of pain?