Blast From The Past

I was 19 when an orthopaedic surgeon came to visit the institution where I was working. Later in the day, after having worked with him for several hours in the Physio department, he asked me if I had ever had an x-ray done on my spine. I replied in the negative and asked him why. He informed me that he was quite certain that I had Scheuermann's Disease. When my shift was done he was concerned enough to perform an exam which included manipulations of my spine. He then ordered x-rays. I had the x-rays done and the next time that he came to my work (about 2 weeks later) he informed me that I did indeed have Scheuermann's. That was 35 years ago.

The surgeon informed me that there was little to be done for it, that I would probably be crippled by arthritis in my spine before I was 30 and that I would always be prone to lower back pain and injury because of the associated excessive curvature in my lumbar region. I also had a visible scoliosis. I read as much as I could about this condition in medical encyclopaedias which, combined, turned out to be about a paragraph's worth. The known "facts" at the time were that this disease was believed to be genetically passed on and expressed almost exclusively by the females in the afflicted lineage, that braces had no impact on the course of the condition, that surgery was considered only in extreme cases, and that outside of possible, mild arthritis, there were no other known physical problems associated with it. Basically, no one had ever bothered to gather any type of long term data to enter into the medical books. It was pathetic. I had already, before diagnosis, experienced severe, debilitating lower back injury for which I was put into a brace off and on for a year. The movement causing the injury was a simple jazz dance move that in no way should have resulted in this injury, but I had no knowledge at the time of my condition. I guess that would explain why my dance teacher, during my teens, was always after me about my posture. I can remember her trying to force my body into certain positions. I can laugh about it now but it was very frustrating then. My mom was always after me to "straighten up" and I did my best to consciously stay erect but it was such a struggle, it wore me out and I always eventually returned to my hunched position.

Over the next several years I suffered more lower back injuries, and I was losing flexibility in my back as it had become quite painful in my thoracic area. I was put on Voltaren, which is an anti inflammatory drug. By my mid twenties I became quite determined not to let my condition deteriorate any further if I could help it. I had always attempted to be an active person but I knew I had to go beyond this. This was the time when aerobics and cross training were becoming popular. I completed a correspondence course on fitness and nutrition then went on to become a certified fitness instructor. I placed an emphasis on low-impact and spine-friendly movements. I began a body building regimen that included lots of back and core strengthening. I taught fitness classes for 13 years without once injuring my lower back. My flexibility was good considering that my spine didn't actually bend in certain areas. And I was able to stop taking Voltaren. I had learned to handle the chronic pain through relaxation, imaging, and breathing techniques.

As I have aged however, x-rays have shown that the anterior portions of the disks in the affected vertebrae have worn away to nothing and that my bones are rubbing together with no protection, that time and gravity has compacted vertebrae in the cervical and lumbar regions causing a variety of problems including compression of nerves. It's a struggle that will be lifelong but there are ways to manage it. Exercise safely, keep the weight off, learn pain management techniques, limit the use of painkillers if you can, have a support team (I did not until just recently) and keep your focus on living your life as best you can!
catann47 catann47
51-55, F
Nov 28, 2012