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!)

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

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

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
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 because of my scoliosis - take pictures

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.

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5 things I do because of my Scoliosis