Saturday, December 18, 2010

Common Questions from Newly-Discovered Scoliosis Patients

Many people with Scoliosis email me through this blog and I must say, thank you so much for your emails and thank you for reaching out to a fellow friend with Scoliosis. For many of us, the questions that plague us are similar, although we may not know that.

Here I will try to lay out some questions that are most common, usually coming from those who have just discovered about their condition, or from those who know that they have Scoliosis but have not received treatments of any form for their condition.

Q: Where do I go to check my Scoliosis? Who do I see?

A: It is most usual and advisable for a Scoliosis patient to see a medical doctor, a specialist who specialises in spine. There are many orthopedic specialists out there, but I personally would go for a spinal specialist right away because they have sub-specialised in treating the spinal cord. There are many spinal specialists now in Malaysia, be it in government or private hospitals. If you choose a private hospital, you simply call in and set an appointment. I am not too sure about government hospitals, but nowadays I suspect you could do the same (call in and inquire about making an appointment with a spinal specialist).

You will need a referral letter from any doctor (just go to any clinic and tell the doctor that you have Scoliosis, and you need a "referral letter" from the doctor which specifies that you have Scoliosis and need to be checked by a specialist). This referral letter will be given to the specialist on the day of your appointment (you could make several copies of the letter if you choose to go to several different specialists to get more than one specialist' opinion).

Q: What happens during the first hospital check-up?

A: If it is your first check-up, they will send you to do x-rays on your spine. From the x-rays, the specialist will then tell you the condition and severity of your curve (the shape of your curve, single curve or double, non-severe, moderate, severe, etc.) and the degree(s) of your curve(s).

Q: What are the treatment options available?

A: The specialist will explain to you the options available to you (physiotherapy, bracing, surgery, etc.). He/She will recommend the treatment options for your specific condition.

But as a patient please note that there are other treatment options available as well. Many private clinics are available nowadays that provide physiotherapy, chiropractor services, acupuncture, and so on. Here's one example of such clinic. There are a few others out there, so please do your research. My knowledge of these treatments and the clinics available out there is limited, but for those who chose alternative treatments other than those suggested by your spinal specialist, please do intensive research before deciding on the course of action suitable for you.

Q: Will I need to go to surgery?

A: Again, this depends on many factors. It depends on the severity or seriousness of your curves, it also depends on your financial abilities, personal preference, and so on. For some, surgery might be the only solution (as I believe it was my only solution because my upper curve had exceeded 100 degrees back then).. but it may not be necessary if your curves are not severe, and if your spine does not get in the way of normal day-to-day living. Again this is my personal opinion on the matter. Even if your specialist suggests for you to do a surgery, noone can force you to take this step unless you yourself choose to do so.

Q: Will I feel better if I have a surgery?

A: No one will know for sure! Surgery is not a miraculous solution, it is not the end of the road that will heal all pain and problems. In my situation, surgery was necessary, but remember.. living with Scoliosis is a life-long condition. Choose a treatment option that suits you and your condition.

Q: Should I go for physiotherapy or bracing?

A: This is again up to your doctor, and you. The situation differs for every patient. Do not give up and keep trying. For some, physio and bracing work well. For some, surgery may be the answer. Some might even choose to forgo all these formal treatments provided at the hospital and opt for alternative treatments (chiropractor, acpuncture, etc.). I did physio and bracing for two years in my teenage years and it did not help me much as my curves were very progressive. But I know some people for whom physio has worked wonders in decreasing their pain and improving their daily lives. I also know of a few others for whom bracing worked well in containing and improving their curves. So in my opinion, it is really a matter of trial and error... and a lot of faith and luck as well.

Q: What if I do not get my Scoliosis treated at all?

A: Yes you can choose to do so. But in reality, if you have Scoliosis, you cannot run from the fact that it is a lifelong condition that you have to live with forever. At some point of your life you may feel discomfort or pain while doing daily activities. When or if this occurs, you must realise that it is necessary to take actions. Even the simplest action like exercising more to ease your daily pain is a good action!


So there you have it.. the most common questions that I get asked about by those who have just discovered that they have Scoliosis, and those who have not had any treatments for their Scoliosis.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Of Little Achievements

This year has been full of unexpected things.

What I mean is.. things that I didn't expect to be able to do as a person with scoliosis (and having had two surgeries already)... have materialised, much thanks to Allah.

You can read about them here.

I ran (more like brisk-walked and half-jogged!) and finished 6 marathons in the past 6 months :)

This week I went for a RPM / spinning class and I am super-excited about it. Never once in my life did I imagine that I'd one day have the ability to be a regular gym-goer.. and to be able to attend exercise classes, just as if I am fully normal. Praise God.

To my scoliosis friends our there who are going through hard times and feeling as if normality is so much out of reach.... please have faith. Have faith in yourself. Have faith in a Higher Being (whatever your religious believe might be, it doesn't matter.. have faith in a higher power..). Have faith, stay strong, and don't give up on the hope that one day normality will be within your grasp and in your life once again.

Trust me. I didn't even think I could walk again. Whatever negative feelings, depression, frustration, helplessness, anger, envy, hopelessness that you may feel... I've felt it too. And sometimes on bad days, the feelings still come knocking on my door.

And to my scoliosis friends who are living the very much sought-after normal life we often hope and pray for..

Let us say thanks and cherish these moments.. one day at a time :)

For who knows what tomorrow holds for us...?