Scoliosis, Core Strength and Pilates – Part 1

What do Laura Dern, Usain Bolt, Shailene Woodley and I have in common?  We all have scoliosis. Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine has sideways curvature(s). Severity can range from mild to very severe and can even result in surgery to fuse metal rods to each side of the spine to straighten it.

I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was 13. Being in my early teens, I already had enough going on and adding this diagnosis was less than ideal. At the time of my diagnosis, my lower curve was 70° and upper was 30° creating a backwards S-shape. I was referred to the Scoliosis Clinic at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon (2.5 hours from my hometown) where I had more X-rays and assessments. Eventually, it was concluded that my curvature was bad enough to need treatment but not severe enough for surgery. I needed a back brace. I cried. It could have been much worse but as a teenage girl going into high school, having a contraption that made me different was terrible.

I was fitted for the back brace that I had to wear for 23 hours a day for the first year. It could only to be taken off to bathe and do my physio exercises. Luckily, I come from an amazing community with the most fantastic support system of family and friends that I was never bullied or treated differently for wearing my brace. (I will add – this brace was more discrete than the one represented in Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion). The brace helped to even out the curves (balanced at 32° & 32°) and reduce the aesthetic distortions that scoliosis can cause. After many more X-rays and assessments, I was able to wear my brace only at night and once the growth plates in my hips were filled in, I no longer needed to wear it.

Living in a small town, we didn’t (at that time) have a physiotherapist nearby or a public gym, so my exercises were done at home using the best of our judgement based on the booklet’s descriptions. Pilates had been suggested but I’d never heard of it and this was pre-smartphone and high-speed internet, so looking it up and learning wasn’t an option. I didn’t know anything about the transverse abdominis and the importance of all the parts of my ‘core’.

Fast forward to today and I’ve been taking Pilates at Lead for a year and I can’t believe the change in my body. I’ve learned much more about my body and movements that challenge my weak areas and strengthen different layers of my core. I have been taking CoreAlign every week, starting in Beginner and now working through the Advanced class! These classes have been very effective in improving my balance and strengthening my core. I can even plank for much longer than when I started! I have so much more of my Lead story to share…stay tuned for the next instalment!

– Dionne