Bent Not Broken

Firstly, I can only apologise for the delay in blog posts. December is a very hectic month for me this year with Christmas, hospital appointments and other responsibilities I have. I’m trying to fit in as many posts as possible but it’s proving rather difficult. With that said I will keep trying to post, and I’ll be attempting to catch up on my #blogmas posts.

Anyway, moving on! Today’s post is about a condition called Scheuermann’sdisease or kyphosis, something I suffer with. In this post I’ll be explaining what the condition is, how it’s effected me personally, and how the process works when going for surgery (in the U.K. anyway). I’ve found that throughout this process finding blog posts about this condition have been few and far between so by writing this, hopefully I can reach out to others suffering with S.D.

What is S.D?

Scheuermann’s disease is a condition which effects the spine. It can also be called Calvé disease and juvenile osteochondrosis of the spine. In S.D part of the vertebrae in the spine grows slowly at the front causing them to be wedge shaped causing the spine to be curved (kyphosis) usually in the upper back. The curve is measured as an angle and depending on the severity of the curvature the correction options are different.

How does S.D effect me?

I first started noticing I had S.D when I started high school at about 12 years old, to begin with I had absolutely no issues with it except for bullying (probably the biggest issue S.D causes). But it has progressively got worse over the past 8 years and I’ve gradually started having a few issues such as:

  • Reduced flexibility – I first noticed this in P.E at school, I couldn’t do the gymnastics other people could do, and things like swimming were uncomfortable because I was very stiff. As I got older this changed to everyday things like I struggle to bend down and tie my shoe laces. I can’t put my head very far back to look up either. And sometimes twisting round to check blind spots in the car can even be uncomfortable due to the lack of flexibility.
  • Discomfort & pain – soon I began to experience discomfort when in school. At home I was able to slouch on a the sofa but at school the hard chairs didn’t suit my needs. This has gotten worse and now the discomfort can even effect me sitting on a sofa. Sometimes nowhere is comfortable. When I’m uncomfortable for too long this can often lead to pain so I have to take painkillers regularly.
  • Shortness of breath – due to way my body hunches over I have quite reduced lung capacity, which means I get out of breath quite easily. Even just walking too fast can cause me to feel out of breath. This also makes it hard to exercise at all.

The ways this condition effects people in a different and although these are the ways it has effected me it can also present the following issues: tiredness, muscle stiffness, redness on the skin (where the curvature has rubbed on chairs etc), muscle spasms/cramps, tight hamstrings, and feeling off-balance.

What are the correction options?

As mentioned previously the treatment is very much dependent on the severity of the curvature.

“To be diagnosed with S.D you have a curvature of 45 degrees or more, or alternatively, 3 or more adjacent vertebrae wedged together by at least 5 degrees per segment.” – spine-health.com

In younger people with a slight curve who are still growing, showing no signs of worsening, with mild or no pain might not need correction. Often they can be monitored with X-rays or other tests so that if it is seen to be worsening treatment can begin.

If a patient is presenting a more advanced curvature but they’re still growing then they would likely receive an intensive treatment. A back brace would be prescribed in order to stop or reverse the extra curvature during their growing years. This can also reduce the pain. To begin with the brace would be worn almost all of the time, and they’re usually used for 1 to 2 years depending on the severity of the curvature. Braces are helpful for curvatures up to 75 degrees.

Physiotherapy is often used too to strengthen and stretch certain muscles and body parts. The physio won’t correct the condition but it’s very good at keeping some flexibility, alleviating pain and fatigue.

Surgery is the final option for correction. It will only be offered to patients with a curvature of over 75 degrees (unless there are extenuating circumstances). Since this is the correction I’m having I’ll explain this in the next segment.

What happens when S.D is surgically corrected?

The surgery is frankly, rather gruesome. The surgeon starts by making a long cut down your back to access the spine. They then install titanium hardware, drilling screws into your spine, adding rods, bars or wires to straighten the spine and then place bone grafts in spaces. In some cases the surgeon will also have to approach through the chest to release tissues and remove discs.

What happens post-op?

I recently had my pre-op appointments where everything was explained to me properly. My nurse: Kelly, told me what would happen once I got out of surgery. For the first 24-48 hours are spent in the high dependency unit; basically until you can go to the toilet yourself. Sometimes you can stay there a bit longer if there’s no space on the ward. Once you’re on the ward things move pretty quickly. They have you up and about as soon as possible since most of the pain after surgery is muscle pain. You’re back muscles have been pushed and pulled everywhere so they’re bound to be sore, and the only way to alleviate this is to be up and about. You’ll be in hospital for a total of 5-10 days usually, so in that time scale they will have you out of bed, walking up a flight of stairs and other exercises. Whilst you’re unable to do quite a few things for a while there is no limit on the amount of walking you can do, the more the better, so long as you’re not causing yourself pain.

Once you go home you shouldn’t be lay/sat down for any longer than 20/30 minutes. You need to move around a lot to help with the pain, and to prevent stiffness, however, you can’t bend down, and you can’t do any heavy lifting. You can travel in the car as long as you’re comfortable and you’re able to get out and take breaks every 20-30 minutes too, but do NOT drive yourself. Not until at least 3 months post-op and you can perform an emergency stop without causing yourself any pain. You can’t wet the wound for at least 10 days post op, and after that you can only shower or have a sink wash; you mustn’t have a bath because pulling yourself in and out etc, will cause too much stress on your spine. For everything else though, you’re advised to wait 6 months, this includes exercise, swimming etc.

S.D is quite rare so it’s often hard to find support out there however, you can join the following group on Facebook. The group is full of supportive individuals who are happy to share their own experiences and advice with you.

Scheuermann’s kyphosis.

You can also use the hashtags:

#kyphosis #scheuermannsdisease #scheuermannskyphosis #calvedisease #juvenileosteochondrosis on instagram and Twitter to find people suffering with the same condition. It’s also worth following people with scoliosis as often the journey they go on is very similar.

I hope this posts reaches at least on person who suffers with S.D and you can use the information in my blog. I will be doing posts about prepping for hospital, checklists, and a ‘journal’ when I go for surgery.

Love to you all x

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