SOS: Building A Strong Core to Relieve Back Pain

The Spinal Column The Newsletter About Your Health And Caring For Your Body



I was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 15. I had a routine follow up with my GP and my dad had noticed I like to sit with one shoulder lower than the other and said I should mention in to my doctor. Thinking nothing of it I brought it up, had my doctor poke around my back, ask me to touch my toes, and next thing I knew I had an “osis”. Residents were being called in the room to look at my “interesting” back. My routine checkup was now scary and overwhelming. I was a competitive gymnast at the time and had no idea what scoliosis meant or what that would mean for me going forwards. Would I be able to compete? Would I need surgery? Would this change my activity levels going forwards? After seeing multiple specialists and being referred to Sick Kids, the time had come to have all of my questions answers. After what felt like dozens of x-rays, I was meeting with an orthopedic surgeon. I learned that scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine and that my curve was very severe. I have an “S” curvature that is 70 degrees in the thoracic spine and 38 in the lumbar spine (that is my real x-ray!). I was informed that I would have been made to wear a back brace had it been diagnosed earlier however, I had missed the window. My only options for treatment were surgery or conservative care. Surgery? I was only 15 years old, an athlete and had no pain. I was informed that surgery is often recommended in curves over 50 degrees however because of the involvement of almost my entire spine except for my neck, they would have to fuse virtually my entire spine. The thought of losing my mobility scared me much more than the thought of any future pain I may encounter.

I felt like a normal kid in every way except for my x-ray so I declined the surgery, not willing to accept the risk of the loss of mobility when I was experiencing virtually no pain. I went back to gymnastics and carried on. It was not until I quit gymnastics that I noticed an increase in back pain as I became less active. To my surprise the extreme ranges of motion I had been putting my spine through caused me less discomfort than losing the muscle mass and strength I needed to support my “crooked” spine. I now train in CrossFit 5 times a week. Finding a way to make rehab and strengthening fun has been the best decision I have ever made for my back. Whether it is weight lifting or walking on my hands there is nothing I cannot do. For now, I have some discomfort at the end of my work day (gravity is not my friend!) however nothing that a few stretches and rest can’t get rid of. My experience with back pain may change in the future as I age but I know I am in the right place if it does!

- Christine Ecclestone, PT

INSIDE: • Building A Strong Core To Relieve Back Pain • Four Core Activation Tips

• Exercise Essentials • My Patient Story • And More!

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