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.”