I got a medical diagnosis for my scoliosis at the age of 17. At that time the doctors said I had come too late as I was done with my growth and my spine was set in its curve. And, the only recourse was opting for scoliosis surgery. Thankfully, my father just did not want to be bothered with the hassle.
I was given the horrible Milwaukee brace which was like some armor from the medieval times. The Milwaukee brace consists of a neck ring with a throat mold and two occipital pads to avoid a high pressure in the neck. Other elements are a plastic pelvic girdle, aluminum uprights, leather L-shaped thoracic pads and metal bars in the front and in the back. Oh, it was horrible having to go for fittings for it.
I’d go alone, a traumatic experience for 17-year old, and that was the time I really missed my mother. The staff at the hospital felt pity for me, being all alone while I had to go from one department to another. From the X-ray room to the consulting doctor, to the brace specialist.
Feelings of Shame
Being measured for the brace was so shameful and embarrassing. I was the case study for a bunch of students, male and female. The doctor was explaining away my curves as if I was some sculpture that had been misshaped. He went on to explain that with my neck being immobile along with pressure to my rib hump and the plastic encasement around my hips, magically my spine would be pulled into alignment.
What he kept forgetting was that I was 17 years. At that time I looked maybe 13 years. In fact, even today I look years younger than my actual age. One of the only benefits of being abused, your development gets arrested and you become ageless.
The girl students tried to be kind but nothing is worse to one’s self-esteem than to be pitied. You feel like a beggar who is the recipient of someone’s almsgiving. Desperately, what I wanted then was to comforted with real genuine love. I am sure if I had someone really caring then I would have healed. Maybe I would not have got scoliosis in the first place.
Life Filled With Pain
Scoliosis is like a life sentence of back pain. It is gradual, one day it feels a little oddness in the back, then you feel your breathing getting painful. Your breath does not flow naturally, finally, the pain gnaws right through your being. It overpowers every other thought in your mind.
In a way, it did divert my mind from the horrible abuse I was going through. It was something that was tangible, and real. It could be explained. The emotional pain made me feel like some alien being who was totally confused about what my reality was all about.
Healing my scoliosis has meant falling down the rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland. Struggling on to finding my way – so long as I got somewhere.
However, I am glad I did not opt for surgery
Surgery And Pain
Most people opt for surgery thinking they would be pain-free after surgery and that surgery would fix all their problems. The truth is, surgery doesn’t fix everything. It makes certain things better, but the pain is definitely not one of those things. Sadly for those suffering from scoliosis pain, surgery does fix the pain, the pain may reduce but in some cases, it may get worse.
Surgery Improves Your Looks
Yes, one sure thing that surgery does is improve your body cosmetically. Here again, it is superficial because scoliosis is not addressed by the surgical procedure. Forcefully your spine is straightened by fusion. Now with the fused scoliosis curves, mechanics straighten by only 20% to 40 %( still a crooked column), this semi-corrected curve fusion creates a long lever arm. This lever arm is not straight up and down with the force of gravity, and the forces pull out and downward on the scoliosis spine.
After the operation is performed, the average patient suffers a 25% reduction in their spinal ranges of motion. Non-fused adult scoliosis patients do not have this same impairment.
I have been going through the scoliosis threads in Reddit – Spinal fusion surgery…for the third time. Most scoliosis patients who undergo spinal fusion end up having repeat surgeries to compensate for the artificial straightening up of the spine.
Scoliosis corrective surgeries, especially in repeat surgery cases, may damage the body’s sympathetic nervous system. This could produce subsequent loss of function, such as adjusting of one’s heart rate, blood flow, and body temperature regulating during activities.
Scoliosis Surgery: The Untold Truth
Considering all the above, I am glad I did opt for surgery. Moreover, surgery would have effectively stopped me from going on this explorative healing journey. Like Joseph Cambell’s Hero, I had to go through many struggles ups and downs and dark nights of the soul. And, like the hero, the adventure changed and transformed me.
I realized there is a mind-body connection. That our emotions affect not just our mental health but also our physical bodies. When we repress our emotions the emotional charge stays trapped in the muscular system causing muscular tension.
Dutch psychiatrist and pioneering PTSD researcher Bessel van der Kolk in his groundbreaking book The Body Keeps the Score has this to say about repressed emotions.
The memory of trauma is encoded in the viscera, in heartbreaking and gut-wrenching emotions, in autoimmune disorders and skeletal/muscular problems.
In my case, I am certain that my scoliosis was caused by Adverse Childhood Experiences in my growing up years.
Even though I spent my entire life trying to find a cure for scoliosis, I really glad I did not opt for surgery. My trauma persona of the wounded 13-year-old has given way to an empowered woman. And I really like her.