My name is Jamie; I’m 20 years old and I was first diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 12. I had a 35 degree S-shaped curvature that curves to the left near my shoulders and to the right near my pelvis. My scoliosis was not immediately obvious because my spine compensates for itself by twisting one way and then back to the other.
Several of my doctors say they would like to have caught my scoliosis at a younger age while I was still growing – I was already 5’ 7” at age 12 and am about the same height right now. (Michigan public schools are required to screen for scoliosis in elementary and middle school students, but I have always attended private schools that did not screen.) But, despite the doctors’ regrets, I am very glad my scoliosis was not detected until 8th grade. I never had any back pain or trouble with the condition until after they started treating me.
In middle school, I ice skated, took tap, jazz, and ballet, and played the piano and saxophone without problems. When I brought up this point in a recent conversation, my orthopedic surgeon retorted that eventually I would have had much worse back pain than I have now if he had not treated me the way he did.
So, here is what happened: I ended up seeing two orthopedic surgeons throughout 9th grade who convinced my parents and me that I needed to wear a brace. They said I was ‘fortunate’ that the curvature was not quite 40 degrees because they would have recommended corrective surgery in the form of metal screws in my spine. The thought of surgery made me leap for the brace, which I was supposed to wear for 23 hours a day, two years straight.
I wore the brace to school under my clothes but, to be honest, I cheated during field hockey and at home. Wearing the brace gave me some of the worst pain I have ever experienced and I spent a lot of my time lying flat on the floor with my feet propped up on a chair. My skin was always bruised from the force of the brace. It was hot; I had limited mobility. I was miserable overall. In addition to this awful back pain, I started developing other problems in my knees and ankles that made it difficult to walk. My back pain has progressively gotten worse since I stopped wearing the brace about six years ago. However, my orthopedic surgeon still considers my case to be successful because my curvature was corrected from 35 degrees to about 29 degrees.
When I first went to see Pierre, I could hardly stand for more than a few minutes without shifting around in pain. In fact, sitting was often just as uncomfortable. I have spent the last few years sitting, standing, sitting, and moving back and forth because no position was comfortable for my back. Walking long distances gave me pain in my back, hips, knees, ankles… I can feel all of this changing since going to Pierre. He has shown me that fixing my spine is not as simple as throwing a brace on and forcing it into place. ABC is correcting my spinal curvature as well as the muscles in my back that have begun to degenerate from years of misuse. It’s a completely different approach to treating scoliosis than what I’ve been accustomed to.
I really cannot say enough about what Dr. Pierre and Dr. Jim have done for me in our short time together. This is the first time in a very long time that I can sit comfortably, something that should be simple for anyone. I know that I still have at least another year to go before I am ‘cured’ but I feel great with the progress we have made. And, the muscle scans Pierre has done are proof that the ABC method is working. It really is a shock for me to look at the scans from April compared to my most recent scans in July. I am so happy I found this practice when I did because it has taken away a lot of my pain and improved the quality of my life.
I hope my story helps you in your decision about how to treat scoliosis.
Jamie, Cornell pre-med student