Running with Scoliosis

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The title for this post may sound like that of a crap 1980’s straight to video movie – and maybe the rest of the post will read like one too – but, in essence, running with scoliosis is what I’ve been doing for the past 17 years.  The reason for writing something about it now is that I’m beginning to do it with a purpose as in just over one week’s time I will take part in my first 10km race, the Bannockburn 10km.  I have no chance of winning the race but, to keep the cheesy movie theme going, just taking part will feel like a victory as it is something I could so easily have never had the chance to do.

In the spring of 1998 I was diagnosed with scoliosis – curvature of the spine – and after undergoing numerous examinations it was decided that the best course of action in my case was surgery.  Unlike in the majority of instances of scoliosis where there is a single C-shaped curve of the spine, I had developed a severe double curvature leaving me with a rather peculiar S-shaped spine; but hey, as one consultant told me, my head is directly above my arse where it should be, so nothing to worry about.  To make my case even more interesting, scoliosis is most prevalent in females, I am male.  Furthermore, it is more common for any curve in the spine to go right in the first instance and, you’ve guessed it, my curve goes to the left.  The end result of all of this was a decision to either have surgery that could leave me paralysed if anything went wrong during the procedure or, due to the degenerative nature of the scoliosis, be wheelchair bound by the age of 27 and more than likely suffer from respiratory problems should the curvature be left unchecked.  For an active 14 year-old who still dreamed of playing football professionally, this was a killer decision to make as either way that dream would be over.  On reflection there was never any doubt that surgery was my only real option as it provided the only opportunity to lead any sort of active lifestyle.

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My surgery, which involved placing two metal rods either side of my spine to straighten and support it, was a complete success and I will always be indebted to my surgeon Mr. McMaster and his team.  Thankfully with this being the case I did not require to wear a brace during my recovery period which, in total from surgery to playing contact sport again, took approximately one and a half years.  It would be another six months to a year before I was confident, both mentally and physically, to play competitively again, but by then I had left school and any football I played was restricted to five-a-sides with my mates.

Over the intervening years the amount of football I played fluctuated depending on what else was going on in my life and also depending on how well on my body was reacting to playing.  I would regularly find that despite stretching after a game, I would be in distress and discomfort for at least the next day or two.  I gave up playing a few times but always went back as football was the only sport I was pretty good at, and while I enjoyed other sports to a degree, at no point did I seriously think about taking up another sport to replace football.

That was until the turn of this year when I once again decided that enough was enough with the post game pain and discomfort.  I stopped playing at the tail end of 2014 but by the start of 2015 I was desperate for something to keep me fit.  Other than football, I’d tried several other sports or activities over the years but none had really kept my interested apart from running.  I enjoyed the solitary aspect of it but also the opportunity to challenge and push myself to run further or faster on each run.  I had also always had the ambition to run a 10km race but had never quite gotten round to it.  So I decided that running would be my new sport.  I re-started, for the umpteenth time, a running programme and have now signed myself up for my first 10km race.

The story in this post may not seem important to some who read this, and that’s fine – after all, it is the script of a throw-a-way 1980’s movie.  But for me, the significance came after I signed up for the race and a realisation that just under 17 years ago I was told that even if my operation was a success, the likelihood was that I would not be playing sport on a regular basis by age 30.  I’m now 31, I’ve reneged yet again on my most recent ‘retirement’ from football and play twice a week, I run the 10km’s from work to home once a week, and take part in some form of physical activity on at least two other occasions in the week.  It might not sound like much, but as far as I’m concerned, every time I go for a run or play football I am defying the limitations of my scoliosis.

I might not break any records next week during the race, but just to compete will be beating the odds placed in front me as a teenager; and that sounds good to me.

As always comments are welcome and it would be great to hear from others with scoliosis.

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7 thoughts on “Running with Scoliosis

  1. Good luck with the race. I too have scoliosis and had a harrington rod (single rod along my whole spine) when l was 15 – lm 48 now. I did provincial swimming while at school and hockey and later did tae kwon do but l suffer badly with lowet back pain that nothing seems to help as l cant bend my back – any tips would be most welcome. I would love to take up running but the pain puts me off. 😦

    1. Hi Debbie, thanks for wishing me luck in the race. It’s good to see all the sports you’ve done despite having scoliosis – shows we’re not letting it stop us. I still get lower back pain from time to time but find that doing some regular back stretches helps a lot. I’ve tried yoga and pilates in the past and found them to be helpful in strengthening my core so I try to focus on core exercises. I’m not one for weight lifting so tend to just do body weight training. I guess the trick is to know your bodies limits and not to push yourself beyond them. On the running, I’ve been lucky and have experienced very little pain from doing it.

  2. Good luck in ur race my son also has scoliosis and has 2 rods he’s 12 years old an has had 13 surgerys he loves celtic and got to go meet the players an watch them play

    1. Hi Seaneen, wow, I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like for you and your son – 13 surgery’s!! I now think I was really lucky to only need the one surgery. I also have two metal rods so hopefully I can show that having them won’t stop your son from being active in the future.
      Fantastic that he got to meet the players – must’ve been a really big moment for him.

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