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I’ve been experiencing pain in my legs at a very young age since I was still in elementary. During days with Physical Education classes, I went home with an exhausted face and limbs in need of much rest. At the end of the class, I’m the petite girl with very thin limbs who gets tired easily. I’m not in any way a sporty or physical type of person. I don’t enjoy physical games or exercises as much as my peers do.
Fast forward to high school, I still experienced the same symptoms especially after long days filled with physical activities (but this time the pain increased in degree as well). When I first transferred to this university, I was overwhelmed with the pristine reputation that they hold. In turn, I did whatever I could to excel, and that included bringing a huge and over-the-top heavy backpack to school and back. I commuted in a jeepney on the way home so basically, the weight I carried for almost all of my high school life was more than what I could take. The worst part is, I used to hang it only on one shoulder, causing my body to be lopsided for over 8 hours or more (to demonstrate a cool gesture). This didn’t end well for me.
Luckily, the pain would go away after my mom applies Omega Pain Killer Liniment on both of my arms and legs. It was my favorite thing to do after I brushed my teeth before going to bed. Its cooling effect made me fall asleep comfortably without feeling any more pain from running and exercising in school. Even after doing simple movements like tying my hair on a ponytail or carrying an infant for more than 10 minutes strain my arm muscles so much.
The Omega Pain Killer Liniment pain reliever saved my life. I’ve been using this since I was a child until now (thankfully not so often anymore) as recommended by my mother and relatives. It hasn’t disappointed me since. I have it with me inside my room and never leave the house without it inside my bag. It’s a certified essential for a scoliotic like me.
After years and years of tolerating the consistent pain in my limbs, I was fifteen years old when I experienced the most extreme wake up call of my life. It was in third-year high school when I went through the longest night. Every second was torture. The severe pain in both of my legs lasted for the entire night until 4óclock in the morning. I couldn’t sleep no matter what I did so I cried until I eventually closed my eyes.
My mom applied almost every drop of the bottle but still, nothing worked. I never liked hospitals because I was so scared of them since I got Amebiasis when I was six years old and Dengue when I was twelve (admitted in the hospital for over five days), but on that particular night, I was begging my mom to take me there.
The morning after, my mom decided we should visit an orthopedist and it turned out I had scoliosis. The doctor made me bend forward as he checked my shoulder blades (one was more prominent or more outward than the other) which was one of the obvious signs of scoliosis. Afterward, he made me stand straight when he noticed that my shoulders were uneven too. He also compared the length of each leg and there was a slight difference. Moreover, he told my mother to have me X-Rayed. We were awed by the result and the interpretation. My orthopedist was right.
I was diagnosed with scoliosis. My curvature was already at 30 degrees (a few more and I’d go to surgery). In terms of family history, my parents and some other relatives have mild scoliosis (and a few of them have muscle spasms) but given the high degree, my doctor was convinced that my negligence and bad physical habits caused such.
Since I was diagnosed with scoliosis and eventually my classmates and teachers knew next, I wasn’t allowed to join in any physical activity over the years (although I join in some of the activities don’t directly affect me but I’m cautious of my limits). One of the perks was also given priority in long queues and jeepney rides (but I didn’t take advantage of this, by the way, I still gave priority to the elderly, PWD’s, and pregnant women).
Furthermore, he didn’t allow me to sleep with pillows and told my mother to buy a flat and firm bed mattress that’s two to three inches thick for a more comfortable sleep. He also prohibited me from wearing heels as it can lead to alignment issues (I wasn’t too affected by this since I’m not a fan of wearing high heels myself). He also told me to drink lots of milk and eat more vegetables and protein as part of my balanced diet meal.
MY DOCTOR’S ADVICE: HOW TO RELIEVE SCOLIOSIS PAIN
According to my orthopedist, the best exercise or physical therapy for scoliosis is swimming. Physical, strenuous activities that involve bending your back like weightlifting and sit-ups are NOT ALLOWED. He also recommended a therapy exercise where I would stretch my back for 10 minutes on each side on my bedpost every night. Moreover, he strongly advised me to be wary of my posture in everything I do especially in sitting (for long hours), standing, and walking. Because the degrees were so high, he urged me to wear a Milwaukee brace for two whole years.
According to Wikipedia, Milwaukee braces are custom-made over a mold of the patient’s torso, but in some cases, it can be made from prefabricated parts. Three bars—two posterior and one anterior—are attached to a pelvic girdle made of leather or plastic, as well as a neck ring. The ring has an anterior throat mold and two posterior occipital pads, which fit behind the patient’s head. Lateral pads are strapped to the bars; adjustment of these straps holds the spine in alignment.
This brace is normally used with growing adolescents to hold a 25° to 40° advancing curve although has been also been used successfully in adults to prevent further collapse or deformity of the spine. The brace is intended to minimize the progression of deformity to an acceptable level, not to completely correct the curvature.
We went to a famous maker of Milwaukee braces in the city and went home looking like a pretty robot. I tried my best to walk with my head held high but I couldn’t help but feel ashamed for looking different than the other kids my age. It was horrible. When we reached home, I tried to argue with my parents and reasoned with them to remove my brace. But they were adamant not to. At first, my mom still had to assist me in wearing my brace since attached to it were three belts that had to be worn tightly, following the marks the man put on when he made it.
Even if I would sweat and foul odor would come out because I’ve spent the whole day walking and it was too tight, I still wasn’t allowed to take it off. Day in, day-night, I wore it like it was part of my body. I only take it off when taking a bath (for about 15 minutes). Also, I wasn’t allowed to sleep with pillows and it was torture for me. For more than two years, I’ve been sleeping on my back and not allowed to sleep sideways. The steel around my neck was painful even with a foam attached to it so it wasn’t comfortable to sleep at all. But eventually, I managed to find comfort in it. Another perk is sleeping while sitting down with a straight spine because it supported my neck.
In school, my classmates would tease me transformers or a robot. I would laugh with them. It didn’t bother me when they ask me a lot of questions about it. I feel empowered, on the contrary. It made me think I underwent through a process that they hadn’t, which gave me confidence and strength in myself. I didn’t realize how strong I was until now.
Currently, I don’t wear a Milwaukee brace anymore but it’s still kept hidden in my house right now. That piece will always remind me of the years when I conquered the pain and rose over it.
For more information about Scoliosis, visit Mayo Clinic: SCOLIOSIS
3 TERRIBLE HABITS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE DOING WHEN WRITING:
BRINGING WAY TOO MANY THINGS IN YOUR BACKPACK
Be wary of the weight of your backpack or any bag, for that matter. Open your bag and assess if all the things you’re putting inside are really necessary for the day. If not, minimize bringing the entire house as much as possible. As my doctor told me, you can only carry about a third of your whole weight. Don’t have too much unrealistic confidence in your strength, thinking you could carry a lot of heavy stuff at once and not suffer repercussions. Health is too important for you to risk and make jokes about it. Writing is a very tedious task, and it lets you be stuck in the same place for an entire day so you must time yourself and move your body once in a while. The higher the risk if you’re both obese and a scoliotic, so do not be complacent.
BEING CARELESS OF YOUR POSTURE
When writing, it’s important to settle down at a location where you find you can make the most productivity. Whether standing up or sitting down on your office chair, be very meticulous of how your body is resting while you’re pouring your mind into writing. Avoid postures when you’re lying on your stomach and curving your back. Moreover, when picking up things (like your notebook after writing over twenty minutes), bend your legs while maintaining a straight spine instead of bending your back. You do realize this happens very often, right? Keep this in mind at all times.
STAYING IN ONE POSITION FOR TOO LONG
I seldom write on the bed because the tendency is I would get more comfortable and settle on a position that will both hurt my eyes and back. Whenever I write my chapter, I write on a proper desk table. Writing for many hours straight shouldn’t be the way to go. I take breaks every once in a while and do a couple of stretches to get the blood flowing. Sometimes, I spare a few minutes to watch Youtube videos and imitate easy yet fun exercises. There are times when you’re in the zone (committed entirely to finishing a single chapter or more) and don’t want to be distracted or even give yourself a break. But always remember that your physical well-being can also affect the creative results you’re putting on paper.
“Good health is not something we can buy. However, it can be an extremely valuable savings account.”Anne Wilson Schaef