THE onset of a severe spinal condition threatened to turn the life of a 48-year-old Ennis woman upside down until she completed a tailor-made exercise plan devised in a London clinic.
Eileen Farrell used to enjoy weekend water aerobics sessions at her local swimming pool. In addition to participating in classes, her experience enabled her to help run sessions.
However, one Saturday morning in June 2011, during a regular aerobics session, Eileen experienced a sharp pain.
She had met some of her friends and was thoroughly enjoying herself when, without warning, while stretching before she entered the pool, she felt an excruciating pain down the right side of her spine. She carried on warming up and did some further stretches and got into the pool, as she was not going to let some back pain stop her enjoying her hobby. The pain did not go away and before the session was really underway, she had to get out of the pool.
“I was really shocked by what had happened at the pool. Normally, I feel flexible and healthy after a session but that day I was in agony before I even did anything.”
When Eileen got home, she questioned the need to go and see her GP, as she thought it was only an extreme case of back pain, which could be cured with a good night’s sleep. So she ignored the discomfort and returned to work the next day.
However, the pain did not subside and for the second day running she was in immense discomfort; only this time she was at her office desk, rather than in a swimming pool. At the end of her day at work, she decided it was time to visit her GP.
“I thought that I could just shake it off. It turns out that I really couldn’t. I can honestly say I have never experienced a worse day at work in my life. I did not know back pain could be that severe.”
When Eileen visited her doctor a few days later, she was asked to perform a number of tasks, so the doctor could determine the cause of her back pain.
The results pointed towards a spinal condition of scoliosis. The doctor went on to advise Eileen of the different methods of treatment that were available to her. Firstly, he explained the surgical approach and then the secondary method, which included a large amount of painkillers.
“I was devastated and distraught. I had no idea of the severity of my condition and I was shocked by the lack of treatment choices available. I was not prepared to undergo either of the two options I had been given.”
Eileen started to search the internet for an alternative method to treat her condition. It was not long before she discovered the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London. She was very impressed with what she saw, so she quickly contacted the clinic and booked herself in for an initial consultation. She visited the clinic in July of 2011 for a four-week treatment programme.
“I was educated by the consultant, who put my mind at rest. My GP had only given me two options and hadn’t even mentioned the possibility that there might be a third. But the consultant at the SOS clinic was very insightful and assured me I did not have to have surgery or painkillers. I was so relieved at the end of my consultation and I enrolled onto a course of treatment the very same day.”
Eileen began her course the following month. She particularly enjoyed the education sessions at the beginning of the course and threw herself into the tailor-made exercise plan she was given for her condition. By the end of the second week, her pain levels had dropped considerably.
“I was astonished by the improvements I had made after just two weeks. My posture had improved but, more importantly, the pain I had been suffering from was now a thing of the past.”
Eileen’s results did not stop after the first two weeks, in fact they only increased. When she finished her course, the pain she had become accustomed to was now barely a memory and her posture had drastically improved.
“I was so happy when I was given my before-treatment and after-treatment scans. I looked like a different person. I was really pleased with myself for making it happen. My pain has gone and I look more upright. I have even grown a few centimetres as well. But, most importantly, I am back in the pool and hopefully not making too much of a splash,” she said.
The treatment is based on a combination of different techniques specialised to deal with scoliosis. The exercises are customised to suit each individual patient and are continued when they return home. Eileen was in a treatment room with other people with the condition, many of whom were doing different exercises.
“Unless you have been diagnosed with scoliosis, it is hard to understand how much of an impact it can have on your life. It’s a constant problem that you really can’t ignore, regardless of how hard you try. I felt that there was no solution. There didn’t seem to be a way out of the predicament that I had found myself in. I can’t speak high enough of the treatment that I received. If I had not visited the clinic, then I would still be faced with the constant struggle scoliosis inflicts on people,” she added.
Facts on scoliosis
It is estimated that up to 5% of Clare people are suffering from scoliosis – an abnormal curving of the spine.
The condition affects both adults and children but progresses more rapidly during the teenage years.
Everyone’s spine naturally curves a small bit, however, people with scoliosis have a spine that curves too much. The spine might look like the letter ‘C’ or ‘S’.
Patients with scoliosis usually suffer backache or lower-back pain, experience a tired feeling in the spine after sitting or standing for a long time or may have uneven hips or shoulders with one shoulder higher than the other. Other effects include the curvature of the spine more to one side. The condition can lead to fatal heart and lung problems if left untreated.
A medical examination may show one shoulder is higher than the other or the pelvis is titled. It is important to have x-rays because the actual curving of the spine may be worse than what a doctor can see during an exam. Other tests may include spinal curve measurement (scoliometer screening) or an MRI of the spine.
“The standard treatment for scoliosis in the United Kingdom is to monitor the curve, until the Cobb angle reaches between 40 and 50 degrees. At this point, the patient will be pointed towards surgery,” according to Michael Barker of the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London.
“Spinal surgery does not guarantee a positive outcome to scoliosis, regardless of the high-risk procedure that your body has to go through,” he added.
For further information, log on to www.scoliosisSOS.com.