When a person gets diagnosed with scoliosis, or in layman’s term a curved spine, it can feel like a curse. The prescribed treatment often comes from orthopaedic specialists, with the traditional method of dealing with the problem likely involving a lengthy time on the operating room table and an even longer recovery period and rehabilitation process. But a lot of scoliosis patients don’t realise that it need not be the case.
This was exactly the case for Nadiah Aziz, who only found out about her scoliosis late in her teenage years. Watching television one night, her favourite uncle remarked jokingly that her back was deformed, though she thought nothing much of the offhand comment. That was the nature of their relationship after all, and they laughed it off as nothing serious.
However, the diagnosis was confirmed through an actual health check a year later at the age of 18. Her application for college came with a mandatory medical examination, which included a basic X-ray. Only then was it revealed that Nadiah had been suffering from scoliosis, with a spine that had two curves at the top and bottom, forming the unmistakable S shape that many fellow scoliosis patients are so familiar with.
Making sense of scoliosis
With the realisation that hers was an actual medical condition, Nadiah and her mother set about getting some proper advice on how to tackle the problem. She was referred to an orthopaedic specialist, whose immediate advice was to have an operation to straighten her spine with a metal rod inserted into her back. It was too late to wear a brace, since she had already overshot her growing years that would make such an option available.
“I didn’t have any pain or any problems with mobility since I was still young,” admits Nadiah. “Imagine being told that you would have to be sliced open for a metal rod to be inserted to correct your spine, when it is not really affecting your life. It wasn’t the best thing to hear. My mom took me to see the doctor and I have to admit, we both freaked out a fair bit.”
Surgeons are never put off by the idea of cutting a patient open, but for the patient who has never had even a stitch in her entire life, this was a very daunting thought for Nadiah. Ignoring the advice to immediately undergo corrective spinal surgery, both Nadiah and her mother to looked for alternatives. The idea was to find a less invasive and risky method, since she was not experiencing any pain or mobility problems.
There are many treatments that claim to treat scoliosis besides surgery. Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, even Chinese bonesetters, all have a certain measure of success. The first was a chiropractor, an accepted form of treatment even though they are often not given enough credit by the medical fraternity. “Resetting the bones and the stretching were fine, but I really enjoyed the electrotherapy,” jokes Nadiah, “I often fell asleep during this part, I would wake up wondering if I had been snoring.”
While there was some improvement to her spine, the treatments eventually became a chore to keep up with. College life can be somewhat hectic after all, and many distractions got in the way. Considering she was still young and had no issues related to scoliosis despite her moderate curvature, the need to continue her chiropractor treatments soon became less of a priority.
Fast forward twenty years later and Nadiah had spent the last decade working in different radio newsrooms as a broadcast journalist. Like most office workers whose days involved long hours chained to the desk in often stressful conditions, Nadiah had finally begun to experience some symptoms. that At the time they appeared unrelated to her scoliosis. By the time she was employed at a local cycling magazine with more flexible hours, the damage had been done.
“It was particularly terrible on extremely stressful days,” she remembers. “Like when there was a breaking news story or when the news team was shorthanded, I would often finish the day with a massive knot in one shoulder. Sometimes it was a dull ache, sometimes it came with sharp pain. My colleague would often give me a comforting quick shoulder massage on such days, and he’d gauge my stress level based on the size of the knot.”
“I also discovered accidentally that by this time my scoliosis was affecting my lung function. I had gone to see a respiratory physician because of a stubborn infection that would not go away, which became a problem because I couldn’t go on air without coughing. I found out I needed more antibiotics but was also told that my lung capacity was the same as an asthmatic because of the curves in my spine.”
Nadiah was already working to be more physically active even while working in the radio industry, going to the gym on and off for a couple of years, and this was obviously a problem. This and other factors led her to eventually switching jobs to a cycling magazine. While there, a visiting relative recommended that Nadiah try finding out more about exercises using the Schroth method, which would give her some hope in correcting her scoliosis. She set about finding out as much as she could, and began scouring the internet for such services in Malaysia.
As luck would have it, she was then introduced to Physiowerkz in a somewhat roundabout way. As Web Editor, it just so happened that among her articles to edit included a testimonial feature for Physiowerkz by a fellow cyclist. Editing and publishing the piece online, she thought nothing more of it. But soon after she realised that her cycling performance was hindered by her reduced lung capacity, and decided it was becoming even more crucial for her to treat her scoliosis.
Going beyond Schroth with Scolio-X
As it turned out, Physiowerkz had an even better way to deal with scoliosis, taking a more holistic approach. Essentially this meant combining different methods to treat a patient by looking at the whole body, not just the spine. While X-rays will help show the spine curves to a certain extent, it often doesn’t tell the full story.
Assessment for a scoliosis patient under the Scolio-X programme looks at the bigger picture, through something called The Physiowerkz Movement Analysis & Treatment System (PMAT for short). The 3 stage process takes into consideration the patient’s current and past medical history as well as complaints and problems for assessment (stage 1), which is backed up by data from a moving scan using hi-tech German technology in the DIERS 4Dmotion® Lab. For Nadiah, this meant taking into consideration a previous metatarsal fracture in her foot, in addition to her scoliosis.
PMAT also records the person’s lifestyle and activities, which for Nadiah meant cycling and strength training, in addition to her desire to resume her Muay Thai training and yoga. PMAT would also pay attention to her existing mobility, which was impaired to some extent by the imbalances in her body. Once the diagnosis was complete and a root cause was determined, it is then time for treatment (stage 2).
Physiowerkz’s Body Mechanix treatment is designed to change and realign a patient’s structure, through a treatment programme tailor-made for their unique spine condition. These exercises are combined with the Schroth method to strengthen the weakened muscles in the body. Upon finishing treatment using these scoliosis-specific exercises, intermediate and advanced exercises will then be prescribed under the Mobifit programme (stage 3), to ensure a patient remains fit and mobile after completing treatment.
In Nadiah’s case, she is still undergoing the early stages of treatment, but is already looking forward to the end result. “I’ve learnt a number of things about my body that I didn’t realise before, and I am already seeing many improvements,” she admits. “It is really great to find out that I’m not beyond hope, and that there is a way to treat my condition so that I can still be active even though I am 40 years old. I can’t wait to finish my treatment so that I can push my physical boundaries further!”