Friday, May 14, 2010

The Importance of Strengthening Your Back Muscles

I have so much to share but there is always so little time in a day!

But I've got a piece of good news and new discovery to share with my fellow scoliosis friends. Alright, maybe this discovery is not so new for some of us out there, but it is to me :)

About two months back, I discovered I had some free time in hand while the son is at playschool. So I decided to join the gym and get some serious workouts done.

I've always been a big believer in exercising. As a teenager I didn't really like physical activities because I was teased in school for wearing a bulky body brace, and for being so clumsy and not well-coordinated enough. Things were emotionally hard back then, so I didn't participate in sports much. If I had a regret about scoliosis, that would be it. I let the teasing and my lack of confidence get in the way and I wasted precious years not using vital parts of my body.

It wasn't until I was in college that I started brisk-walking and swimming on a daily basis in an effort to lose weight. I didn't lose weight much, but I was in good shape and felt good about myself. I had my first surgery within months of finishing my degree, and as soon as I could walk, I got my Dad or my then-boyfriend (now my husband) to drive me to Kiara Park so that I could walk. At first I walked so slow that everyone stared and wondered what was the matter with me. And at first it took me nearly 30 minutes to complete one round around the park. But I kept walking, sweating in my singlet and post-surgery body braces, not caring about those stares and whispers. And to this day I am glad I ignored them all!

Six months later I was out of the braces and walking 5 to 7 rounds (I took the big and uphill routes too) every single day. I had lost 15 kilos since the surgery and feeling good about myself.

Throughout my postgraduate studies in Melbourne, walking was my major exercise. A couple of years later when I felt super-strong, I started buying aerobic and strengthening workout videos to do on rainy winter days. I hiked a lot too on weekends and holidays. Hence I maintained my weight until I got pregnant with my son four years after my first surgery.

During my pregnancy I gained 16 kilos but kept active. I tried to workout three times a week throughout the pregnancy. After giving birth, it got hard to stick to an exercise plan. I was working and we were moving house, then the implants got infected and I couldn't walk for half a year. I started walking again when my son was 18 months old. That was when I decided to restart a workout schedule.

I walked at the park 5 days a week, 30 minutes each time. But it wasn't sufficient. My spine, and back muscles still didn't feel strong enough.

So now I've joined the gym. And to make full use of the gym, and to build strength on my back I have a personal trainer to train me twice a week. So every week while my son is at school (he goes to playschool three times a week), I'd be at the gym. Aside from that, I make sure I work out on my own home equipment three times a week. In total, I try to work out 6 days a week, about an hour to 2.5 hours each time.

And lo and behold, I am amazed at the strength that exercise can give us!

By us, I specifically mean us with scoliosis condition.

For the first time in 8 years, I am praying normally (standing up, with abilities to bend and prostrate as I wish). I can lift groceries, I can even lift my son (although I don't make a habit of it), I can bend down to look for things under the bed.. and so much more. My back muscles feel strong and capable of living a very-nearly-normal life. Praise God.

So what is my point here??

The point that I am trying to make is.. don't give up!

When you have scoliosis, some days the pain can drag you down. Some days it doesn't seem as if you will ever be normal or live normally. Some days there are just so many things that you cannot do.

Fight it.

Fight the pain. Exercise.

Go ahead, try it :)

Start with walking. Just walk. Go to the park and walk. Move your arms in silly ways that make you feel good and ignore those evil-starers. And don't stop for 30 minutes.

Stretch when you're done with your walking. Stretch your legs, your arms, your back. Be careful, but stretch. And feel good about your achievement. Because this will be the start of great benefits.

There are specific exercises to do to help strengthen the back muscles. I'm not talking about strengthening the spine or exercising your curves. What I mean is, if you concentrate on strengthening your back muscles (those muscles surrounding your back area), you can minimise discomfort and pain, and you'll also find yourself feeling stronger and better about yourself.

If you're unsure and need help, do talk to your doctors and physiotherapists. Ask them about suitable exercises. If you can find it, find a trainer with experience in aiding scoliosis patients.

In the following weeks I'll take some pictures and talk about the back exercises that I do, for the sole purpose of sharing personal experience and giving an idea of the benefits exercise can give scoliosis patients.

Is there anybody out there who have inspiring stories of fitness or strength-related discoveries to share? We still have much to learn about how exercise can benefit our scoliosis condition!


zahiah aziz said...

salam miss nina.
i found your blog to be very inspirational. some how it did help me on answering some of the random question that pop up in my head. thank you.

well,i just realised that i have scoliosis 2 months ago. and is it normal that i always have neck pain too? and for your information,my scoliosis starts from my last lumbar. will i have any complication during pregnancy or during the time of labour? falling hard to the back for example on a bare ice (during winter) can cause my spine to bend even worst is it? can i play sports?

Felicia said...

Your story is the most inspirational I have ever read. TQ for sharing.
I had an op. in 2007 but the rods broke which I dont know when.
I brisk walk every morning except Sunday for 1 hr.
Live as normal as possible, be positive. Dont worry about what others say.
God bless
Poh Chee

Hayley said...

Nice! Don't let scoliosis stop you! I had surgery in 2004, at age 11, because my spine was critically curved (65 degrees).
9 years later, as a 20 year old, I hiked the john muir trail, which is a 220-mile (can't tell you you what that is in km) trail that starts in Yosemite National Park and ends on the highest point of the continental U.S., mt Whitney. The weight of my backpack hovered around 30 pounds throughout the trip, and it took me 3 weeks to complete. Even though scoliosis causes us great daily pain (as it still does me), I know that ultimately it is just a mindset that must be overcome!