Friday, November 23, 2012

Simple Things To Do For Your Daily Pains

Growing Pains? Daily Pains.

Most people have growing pains. Scoliosis patients have daily pains.

Frankly, I cannot recall the last time I felt utterly pain-free. If you asked me, probably 20-ought years ago during my pre-teen years when the curves were not progressing at an obviously alarming rate.

Fast forward 21 years (since first diagnosed), I have to say that there is indeed pain, some sort of pain, at some spot, or a variety of spots, everyday. Weirdly enough, the pain-spots or pain-areas can be different each day. On Monday it could be my shoulder blades. On Tuesday it could be the upper curve. Wednesday it could be the rib hump that was removed during the first surgery. Thursday it could be my formerly-frozen shoulder with nerve pains all the way down my arm to the tips of my fingers. Friday it could be the coccyx area. Saturday the lower curve. Sunday the formerly-compressed nerve on the lumbar area, pain tingling all the way down the formerly-temporarily-paralyzed left leg.

Some day the pain could be so mild, I can go on all day gym-ing, baking, carting kids left right center, and then to bed humming to myself. Other days the pain makes the body feel a hundred years old, the mind fogs up and only cross words can come out from my mouth so I keep it shut and quiet throughout the door as much as I can.

I am very very sure that most Scoliosis patients with mildly-moderate to severe curves experience this. The good days, and the bad days.

In the support groups I see young girls writing painful words; words of pain, words of loneliness, words of worry. Their words effect me more than I expect sometimes. I suppose only those who go through such pain would really understand the various pains Scoliosis can bring to the human body. Aches, throbs, tingles, shortness of breath, numbness, soreness.. well, to name a few.

The doctor (Dr. M) at Spinal Inc. said something that hit me, made me realize that I had been living my life wrongly all these years.


My friends, this is true, whether you realize it or not. Or whether you want to admit it or not. This does hold true.

I remember winter months in Melbourne, busy with assignments, my whole back tight from a whole day in front of the computer, bent over books and materials. The whole back area was screaming in pain and the agony was vivid as I rolled my shoulder blades to rid of the 'kinks' I felt. A *'kruk kruk' sound like bones cracking and snapping against each other making me wince and wondering how long it can go on this way. (*Credit to Joveen C from the support group for her 'kruk kruk' description)

Rigidity is not good.

So that is the most valuable lesson I'd taken away from Spinal Inc. Daily schedule leaves me with little free time and I have not been to Spinal Inc. for my treatments in months, but amazingly enough, I feel great most days despite the pain. The good days are really good. The bad days are not that bad either anymore. (Alhamdulillah)

Here's the key: the key to manage your daily pain is to keep your back muscles relaxed, not rigid.

Every patient is different, so I am not here to give you specific 'instructions' on how to relax (and strengthen!) your back muscles. But I will share my experience here, hopefully others can find it useful and eventually figure out what works best for yourselves.

Relax AND strengthen the back muscles? Sounds like an oxymoron doesn't it. If you're wondering why I think relaxing and strengthening go and it hand, I personally believe it has something to do with blood flow and muscle strength. You see, it is important to move (i.e. exercise!) and get blood flowing to your back area. Once blood starts flowing there, your muscles will feel 'warmed' up and you won't feel so rigid anymore. And eventually, once your muscles are used to being 'exercised', it increases in strength and so everyday you can do a bit more, you can feel a bit better, you can be a bit better and so your strength and quality of life will increase.

Is this even scientifically proven? No, I apologize, I am only speaking out of personal experience.

Exercise saved me from rigidity and pain. Please, give it a chance and maybe it will help you too.

Exercise is such a taboo word, really, people have images of vigorously sweating people in work-out clothes when I mention exercise, no doubt. But what I mean is exercise can be as simple as putting on your slippers, and simply taking a stroll around the block for twenty minutes. Move your hand in motion, heck, wave it gently around if you want to a'la aunties-walking-in-the-park if it makes the blood flow to your back better. Swimming is another misconception too.. swimming doesn't have to mean swimming laps. Float on your back, gently move your arms around like you're a water-angel (like snow-angels, you know? Hehe).. stay in that water and just have fun for twenty minutes.. do this three to four times a week. Just some simple exercises that MOVES the back area.. and you will be amazed at home much better you'll feel in a week or two. And in a few months, you'll feel so much better about yourself that the future will seem somewhat better.. not so much filled with pain anymore!

And when you're working in front of the computer and the back starts feeling tight and rigid, and you feel the pain coming... get up for a while and move around the house. Do stretches. Bake a cake. Cook up a stirfry. Look up the ceilings while you walk around the house to look for cobwebs. Whatever that simply gets you moving that body and those back muscles for at least ten to fifteen minutes.

The trick is to train your back muscles to be relaxed. When it's relaxed, the pain will lessen.

Give it a try, really :)

Down with muscle rigidity!

Swimming with the five year old who can swim even faster than I can. The water's the only place I can hold my babies without feeling strain on my back (due to the water buoyancy).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Reality Check

I was in Ikano last week fetching the older boy from his art class. There was a petite woman (and I mean veryyy small sized.. in height and width) carrying a baby, with another little girl at her side, a man and another woman. They walked together in  a group, it looked like a usual family outing. I was fiddling around with my bag when the elevator came, and we all walked in. She was ahead of me and that's when I noticed it.

Her hump. Humps, to be exact. An upper hump caused by a thoracic curve. A lower hump caused by a lumbar curve. Such obvious humps. Humps that were so distorted and obvious, I could practically feel her pain.

I had a hump ten years ago pre-surgery. They removed it and until today I have little to no sensation on the surface of that area. You can poke me, tickle me, push me there on that spot. If you do that, I'd feel like you''re attempting to poke me through a piece of wood. Meaning.. it feels like there is a thick barrier between your touch, and my skin.

But my hump was probably only 50% of this lady's hump. I couldn't help but glance. Other people in the lift stared. I'm glad to say I didn't. Having people in school stare at my hump is reason enough for me to never stare at other people's unusualness.

She perched her baby on her waist, at the hip-joint, just like any mummy would do. She chattered on with her lady friend. Her husband was messaging someone on his mobile. Her kids were beautiful, smiley and bright. She didn't give one hoot to the staring eyes.

I felt humbled, and ashamed.

Tonight my upper back hurts. It is sore, stiff and throbs a dull rhythm on my brain, telling me to do something for the pain. Husband has set up my inversion table and I'll be doing the inversion right after this. After that I plan to do some Scroth breathing exercises. InsyaAllah I will go to sleep better.

Usually I'd give a sigh or two. I don't sigh or complain to other people, I sigh to myself, in the privacy of my home. Ever since I was 12, I do not remember one day of which the spine has been pain-free. That is 21 years of discomfort. But tonight I do not sigh. I keep thinking about the courageous lady in white, walking like she carries a streak of pride with her throughout the mall, ignoring people's curious eyes. What discomfort and pain she must go through every single day.

To the lady I saw, thank you for making me humble. For making me remember that there are many others who have more pain than me, but live on gracefully anyway.

May God bless you always sister!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Swimming For Scoliosis

Note: All opinions are entirely based on personal opinion and experience.

Back when I was 12 years old, in 1991, the doctors in UH (now known as PPUM) told me I should go swimming for my scoliosis. There was no Internet; no google, no facebook, no support group. You take what your doctors tell you as literally Godsend and do as you are told.

Mum had sent me for swimming classes since I was little. But she continued to send me for swimming classes in Bangsar until I was fifteen. A few of my close friends from school came along and we'd have fun in the water for a few hours every week. Nobody else I knew had Scoliosis, so we didn't do anything back-specific. We just swam.

About three weeks ago I had a trial class for Aqua Aerobics at The Club, Bukit Utama (near Bandar Utama). It was nothing short of amazing! The movements really "working" your upper and lower back. And don't get me started on how amazing it felt on the core. It is important to have a strong core. I intend to start regular Aqua Aerobics classes this July. The review and update on this will be for another entry.

For now, lets talk about swimming.

Going for the Aqualogix class (this is what the classes are called) reminded me of how comfortable and relaxed water has always made me feel. So I decided to incorporate swimming into my health ritual. And so my weekly health ritual would be something like this:

- Gym; cardio and strengthening exercises (including weights), three times a week (1.5 to 2.5 hours each time).
- Physiotherapy at Spinal Inc.; twice a week (two hours each time).
- Swimming; twice a week (one to two hours each time).

It has been a few weeks now and swimming has done wonders to the good ol' spine. It has helped me manage my pain better (most days are pain-free now, praise Allah!), and it has helped me strengthen my lung capacity as well. I do cardio a lot at the gym, so I was amazed at how out of breath I got after my first swimming session in years. The breathing technique we use as we swim really helps build up overall stamina, especially where lung capacity is concern.

And the buoyancy of the water! It makes a person with pain feel weightless, free and oh-so-relaxed and graceful :)

So what do you guys think? All scolis should try the water, swim or not! Walking in the water is an exercise too and oh my, what effort it takes! Have you tried walking for significant distances in the water..? The first time I tried it in the Aqualogix class (and that's why Aqua aerobics is suitable even for non-swimmers).. I couldn't believe how out of shape I felt. 

Do you guys have any water-related tips to share? :) 

With my water babies.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Weight Issue

To be perfectly honest, I have never been the thin girl on the block. Well I was never fat, but noone would call me thin, seriously. I was average at the most. My genetics seem to be the bane of my existence. I'm very hourglass shape, though not from the sexy genre. Putting it bluntly; heavy chested, heavy bottomed. Yup, you'll end up with an hourglass figure that ain't necessarily a good thing.

Things changed when I was 18. With school finished, and driving license earned, walking was not a norm any longer. With no extra curriculum activities, and a decent allowance, eating out became the norm. By the time I entered university, I was slightly over weighed and not liking it. I incorporated swimming into my daily routine, but did not manage to shake the extra weight off.

Until I had my first surgery in 2002, and out of sheer will power lost 16 kilos while doing my postgrad in Australia.

After getting married, although I regained a few kilos, I managed to keep my weight down through diet and exercise. After having my first son, I had difficulties losing the weight once again. Walking didn't seem to help, and it was even harder to lose weight once I started having severe pain from the broken implant.

After the second surgery, the weight was still a struggle to manage as I entered my 30s and metabolism took a different turn.

I forced myself to pay for a personal trainer and trained like mad. Controlling my diet this time around was harder because with a kid around, the mum always becomes the household garbage disposal (finishing leftover and whatnot!).

I then lost 8 kilos. Then I conceived and gave birth again.

And now the cycle has started again. Here I am, at the same weight I was at after my first son, and struggling to lose it once again.

The difference now is that I dare not go for personal training again because there is no medically certified trainer at my gym at the moment. My previous trainer had moved to another establishment and is no longer an option. I dare not choose another trainer for fear that I might be putting my spine in jeopardy if bad training was given. Spinal Inc. has also discouraged me from pursuing personal training with an uncertified trainer who might cause the curves to worsen further.

So now I am at my wit's end.

I still go to the gym three times a week at least, but with a baby at home, I cannot work out as long as I would like to.

And why do I bother talking about the weight issue?

Because, here's the thing..

I believe being overweight is bad for your spine. Your spine strains to carry the weight. And any extra strain would and could cause discomfort or pain. And as this holds true for people that do not even have scoliosis, imagine what it could possibly do to us, those with scoliosis.

The bottom line is, I believe people with Scoliosis should strive to keep their weight down, at a healthy range.

Wish me luck!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Facebook Group: Malaysians With Scoliosis

Indeed through this blog I've made numerous friends from all over the world. I can't begin to describe how much it means when someone writes and shares their experiences with me.

I've finally started a group on Facebook. Look it up; it's called Malaysians With Scoliosis. As with everything in my life, it will be another work-in-progress. Isn't everything in life a work in progress, really.

My back aches tonight due to lack of exercise (haven't been to the gym in three days due to work commitments and a bout of food poisoning).. I am tired and hoping that I might have some energy left to do the physio for the night.. and was wishing I knew someone (or could talk to someone) who knew exactly what I was feeling and going through.

May this group be the beginning of plenty of good things. God willing.

If you are like me, constantly looking and hoping for a better understanding of what you go through everyday, join us.

Monday, April 2, 2012

After a Month at Spinal Inc.

I adore my therapists there. In such a short time they have become my friends and confidante. The upside of going to therapy when you're older and no longer a teenager is that you get to be friends with your therapists. And it makes for a much comfortable treatment environment.

Each session the patients come in on their own time, each person would do his/her own exercises, and therapists would go around checking on your exercises. Whether you're doing them correctly or not. They'll correct you and give you tips to improve your exercises. They'll regularly ask how you're feeling, and they never forget to check on you to ensure you're doing the routines correctly.

The Scroth Method involves a lot of breathing exercises. I think these stuff are harder to learn and adapt to when you're learning them at an old-er age. Like me.

The teenagers and little children who go there do their exercises so wonderfully well. I cannot help smiling and feeling warm inside watching the young girls there speeding through their exercises while I do them at a snail's pace. I am determine to do them correctly as well. The thing that is different is all my years growing up with this Scoliosis.. I see it from their viewpoint. I can see it in their eyes. I see their dread, their unhappiness, their gladness when the exercises work out well, their boredom, their rebellion, their denial. These wonderful young people with their exceptional ability to adapt and learn at lightning speed, but not necessarily willing to fully accept the evil necessity of committing themselves to this medical condition that we have.

But already in each of them I see the spirit that will carry them through the rest of their lives with Scoliosis. Some of them will get better. Some of them will get worse. All of them will one day eventually realise that they can embrace this and live with it.

Due to work and family commitments, I can only attend the sessions twice a week. Other days I try to do the exercises at home, but sometimes there are days when I had to skip them. Am hoping I will eventually learn to fit the exercises into our daily routine sooner than later.

It is too soon to say anything but one thing I can say is that the pain has definitely improved :)


A Lifetime Commitment.. what I've given this Scoliosis of mine, and will continue to do so.

The curves have regressed, yes. After the posterior fusion surgery in October 2002, the curves were approximately 20 to 30 degrees each, corrected from its origin of between 90-100 degrees. Prior to surgery my lower curve reached approximately 98 degrees if I recall correctly.

The latest xrays show that the curves have increased (or in a more "correct" medical term.. it has regressed/returned to ...) to between 40-50 degrees. Both upper and lower curve.

No wonder I've had severe pain and aches since carrying and giving birth to Ilan.

Indeed the reality is that I had always known the curves are regressing. Denial is a silly, but sometimes unavoidable thing.

Sometimes I get discouraged, dealing with this Scoliosis for the past 20 years has been challenging, emotionally and physically. But when I look at many many others who are in worse situations, I thank God for this life that I have with its many blessings.

Onward my friends, it's onward.This is the only way to deal with this. Never look backwards.

So I will continue to do what I can for myself and my Scoliosis today. No use thinking about what could have, should have and would have.

This Scroth Method. I pray it works.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Next Step: Spinal Inc., Mont Kiara.

Here's what has been going on..

Since the birth of the second baby, I've had pain on my upper spine and the fear that my curves are regressing have returned to plague me.

So today I had my first consultation with Spinal Inc., in Mont Kiara. The physio doctor I saw was very sympathetic, helpful, generous with advice and information, and I look forward to working on the good ol' spine with her and her staff.

Goodbye to my surgeons? Nope, we will cross the bridge only if we get there. Which I hope we won't. Two surgeries are enough for now. God willing.

Will keep my progress updated.