Holistic Healing

My Journey With Scoliosis + Holistic Healing

Above: the aftermath of cupping. The darker spots indicate places that needed and responded more to the treatment than others. “Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create suction. People get it for many purposes, including to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being, and as a type of deep-tissue massage.”

Remember that day in seventh grade during PE class when the school nurse came to the locker room and checked everyone’s spines for scoliosis? We all giggled and tittered nervously because we had to bend over in front of her with our shirts off and it was just an awkward moment for a tween. At the time, I didn’t really understand what that little test was for.

Two years later, I definitely understood.

I don’t really remember why my mom ended up taking me to a spine doctor when I was 14. Undoubtedly it was for back pain, but I can’t say for sure. At just 14-years-old, I found myself receiving x-rays of my spine, and being told I had scoliosis. Even after the diagnosis, I still didn’t really understand what that meant. “Your spine is curved,” is what the doctor told me. “It’s too minor to do surgery on, but you can do some physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around it.” And he sent me to a physical therapist who gave me a list of moves to do every day that would help stretch and strengthen my back.

Psh, yeah right. What 14-year-old girl is going to do physical therapy for a back condition she doesn’t know anything about and doesn’t really effect her life in any way?

Of course, now I wish I would have taken his advice, because my condition is currently 16 years chronic. And basically I’m in constant pain, every day. It hurts to sit for a long time, it hurts to stand for a long time, it hurts to walk for an extended period of time. So essentially, I just hurt.

On the flip side, I’m very fortunate that the actual condition itself hasn’t worsened in the 16 years that I’ve had it. My spine has stayed in exactly the same awkward curve all that time. And the pain that I feel is mostly a dull, constant ache, no shooting pains or tingles. What that means, though, is that all of the muscles in my body have slowly lost their purpose.

When I say all of the muscles in my body, I pretty much mean all of them. From head to toe. The funny thing about scoliosis is, it isn’t just a spine condition. It effects every inch of you. Something that I recently discovered.

I’m really against taking pain medication for anything other than a headache. That’s literally the only time I’ll take them. Because in all honesty, they do not work. And putting foreign entities into your body is extremely unhealthy. Which is the main reason I’ve turned to holistic healthcare to aid in my ailments.

When I started going to acupuncture a little over a year ago, it was for migraines and stress. My acupuncturist also knew I had scoliosis and tried to relieve the pain, but unfortunately the needles did little to rid me of my aches and pains [it worked wonders for everything else, though! Read about my experience here]. To be fair, with a condition as chronic as mine, there was little she could do. Acupuncture is wonderful for so many things, but my scoliosis pain was something that was too deep-rooted for acupuncture to fix.

I continued to live with the pain for another eight months or so, but knowing we had a trip to Europe coming up and I’d be walking and standing a lot, I wanted to start seeking treatment again. My fiancé directed me to a chiropractor friend of his. I’d always been afraid of going to a chiropractor – I had a major fear that a correction would go horribly wrong and I’d be paralyzed for the rest of my life. My fiancé reassured me that Vince practiced a different, more modern form of chiro and would barely do any adjusting at all. He was right.

Dr. Vince Hoffart practices a form of chiropractic care called Active Release Technique. He does do some adjusting, but it’s mostly a lot of centralized muscle release. Instead of adjusting the bones in your body, he works on the muscles around them. Instead of a quick fix, he focuses on getting to the root of your issue. [In my case, the scoliosis has caused all of the muscles in my body to create a backwards support system. Instead of the muscles around my spine supporting my spine, they are trying trying to keep my spine from twisting. So other muscles have taken the place of those in order to support my spine.] It’s pretty amazing, actually. The first time I saw him, he dug around in my hip bone and the inside of my leg to try and help ease the tension in my back. A truly eye-opening experience to learn that other parts of my body could be worked on in an effort to aid my chronic scoliosis.

I’ve been seeing Vince for three months, and while the pain in my back hasn’t lessened, he’s done wonders for my neck and hip/glute, which both were aching and ailing me due to the unnatural curvature of my spine. The scoliosis is still a work in progress, but I have high hopes for this type of treatment.

In addition to chiropractic healing, I’ve also been seeing a massage therapist who practices a style of massage that focuses more on the nervous system and fascia. Her belief is that when you don’t use your muscles properly, over time the fascia [tissue between your muscles] glued them together unnaturally and constricts your range of motion. It’s a painful, yet oddly relaxing, form of massage. My first appointment with her, she worked on the muscles and fascia in my armpits [I know, weird], chest and between my ribs and rib cage. Her hope is that by releasing tension throughout the body, one section at a time, my back will eventually loosen up as my muscles remember their original purpose. She also performed cupping on my back and shoulders in order to release tension and toxins from my muscles that her hands and fingers could not do.

Jury is still out on whether this will work or not. Although I will say that I could breathe so much easier after she worked on my rib cage. It actually felt like a weight had been lifted off of my chest. I am looking forward to seeing if this form of massage therapy will work for me. The fact that I had no idea how much tension had built up in just my chest cavity means that every inch of my body is likely experiencing the same tightness and pressure.

Only the future knows how my body will respond to these holistic treatments, but I am willing to put all of my money and effort into finding out. Even if it doesn’t help my back, other little parts of my body and soul are starting to feel better, and that is just as, if not more, important. I also think it’s good for the human body to let its guard down every once in a while. Even if you don’t believe in holistic healing, having someone spend so much time and effort [they’re literally so passionate that they make a living doing it!] to try and help you is truly an amazing and beautiful thing. People helping people. There are still kind and humane people out there who just want to do right by others. And that – that gives me hope. Hope for myself, hope for my health, and hope for the health of humankind.

“Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. While scoliosis can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the cause of most scoliosis is unknown.”

Holistic Healthcare For Fur Babies

If you don’t know by now, I am basically obsessed with my dogs. I spare no expense for their health, well-being and happiness. [I also spare no expense for their fashion – stylish collars are a must!]

A little over a year ago, I started going to acupuncture. My best friend, who has battled Endometriosis for all of her adult life, has found so much improvement in health and pain relief through holistic healing. She is diligent about exercise, receiving acupuncture and cupping, eating right, and using essential oils to improve her overall health and body. [I keep encouraging her to write about her health journey – it’s truly extraordinary. once that happens, I will link her blog here :)].

I had no expectations for how my body would react to acupuncture. I really didn’t know anyone else who had ever received it, so the only review I had was a good one. Honestly, acupuncture changed my life. It got my body back on track and reset my system. I went from having migraines, excessive stress and panic attacks, to having none of the above. I still stress sometimes, but my body doesn’t even come close to the levels that it used to.

After having such a positive experience of my own, I decided to do some research on holistic healing for Miss Bella. Even though we were running three to four miles, five to six days out of the week [and still getting her out for exercise on the seventh day], she never seemed to be tired or relaxed. She would never truly settle down, and any time I’d get up from the couch or move from one end of the room to the other, she’d be my shadow. She was on constant high alert, growling or barking at any sound she heard. It got to a point where my fiancé and I couldn’t settle down or relax either. I figured that since acupuncture worked for me, perhaps it would work for her, too.

I was so fortunate to find Marilyn Koski [she works out of Marqueen Animal Hospital in Granite Bay]. She is the exact type of human you want doctoring your pet. She is empathetic, honest, and extremely knowledgeable. Something I have learned is extremely important since Bella came into my life. It’s the reason I drive to Sacramento to keep seeing her primary vet, Susan Barrett at Watt Avenue Pet Hospital. Both women are consistently and constantly educating themselves on new practices in animal healthcare. They don’t just regurgitate information that they learned back in veterinary school. They also sit down with their clients and share their knowledge; they try to explain what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how it will benefit the animal.

Anyway, back to Marilyn. She is an absolute dream. When Bella and I met her, she sat on the floor and let Bella approach her and sniff her. She chatted with me while Bella mosied around the room and sniffed here and there. She asked about why we were there, why I was seeking acupuncture for Bella. She asked about diet, about the amount and type of exercise Bella gets. And then, once she’d gained Bella’s trust, she performed a series of physical tests on her. She tested the range of motion of Bella’s limbs, and poked and prodded in different places to test her reflexes. She moved a treat around to test other parts of the body for stiffness and ease of movement. She also massaged different muscles in Bella’s body to check for swelling, asymmetry, and other oddities. It wasn’t until all of that was completed that she gave me her overall diagnosis of Bella: healthy, happy, well-cared-for [pat self on back], and just generally a basic Doberman. They are an alert breed with a natural tendency to protect their home and the people in it. The things that my fiancé and I felt were high stress, were actually just normal behavioral attributes for a Dobie.

After the physical tests, Marilyn proceeded to perform some needle acupuncture on Bella to see how she would respond to it [she responded very well – she slept for 12 hours after we got home that night]. In addition to the needles, she also used a form of laser acupuncture which penetrates a little deeper into the system [it’s not harmful to animals or to humans]. She was also very knowledgeable in regards to supplements and medications that can be purchased through the internet. Animal products are generally not monitored by any sort of food and drug administration, so there are no restrictions for what goes into them. SCARY. There are some products, however, that are made by well-known companies, and, on top of that, are actually tested and monitored [huge eye-opener – I felt like such a bad dog mom after years of purchasing random crap for Bella online]. Marilyn recommended a great joint supplement made by Bayer called Synovi G4, which you can buy on Amazon here.

Two weeks ago, we made a return visit to Marilyn after an early September injury that Bella wasn’t healing from. Again, I was blown away by her kindness and knowledge and her ability to give me peace of mind. She explained everything she was doing, how Bella was responding, and what that indicated for her. She performed laser treatment, set up a follow up appointment, and I kid you not, Bella was cured. No more limp, no more swollen shoulder [which were her initial symptoms]. I can’t tell you how much my heart lifted knowing that her “old age” [she’s six] wasn’t the culprit. And it made me that much more sold on acupuncture and how it can really do wonders for the body.

If you’re in the Sacramento area, I highly HIGHLY recommend both Marilyn and Susan. Marilyn is a specialty vet, so she does not perform regular veterinary tasks like vaccinations and surgeries. But she is absolutely amazing at what she does, and the fact that she can relate to both human and animal is extremely important [so many veterinarians seem to have a disconnect with other humans]. Susan Barrett is a great veterinarian if you’re looking for a regular, day-to-day doctor for your pet; and she is especially knowledgeable in breeds with ear crops, as she does also perform those surgeries [and extremely well, I might add]. Another reason why I love her: she knows all there is to know about Dobermans. She is also great at communicating with humans and does everything in her power to share her knowledge and education with her clients. Seriously, I cannot say enough about both women – they are two of the best.