Running with Scoliosis

I haven’t talked in depth much on here about my back. It has given me a lot of trouble over the years so I wanted to share how I have dealt with it. Note: I am not a doctor; this is just my story.

I have scoliosis.

For those that don’t know, that means my spine has a curve in it. I found out in high school that I had it. There are varying degrees of severity of scoliosis. Sometimes a person only has a curve in the top portion of their spine. Other times a person only has a curve in the bottom portion of their spine. I happen to have a curve in both the top AND bottom parts of my spine. Essentially, my spine looks like an ‘S.’ I like to say it’s an ‘S’ for Stacie. 😉

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[Not my X-ray, but mine looks similar. ]

I have been quite fortunate in that my body has adapted very well to my scoliosis. Even though I have about a 50 degree curve in my spine in both the top and bottom, many people can’t tell that I have it by looking at me. I can tell, but hell, we are our own worst critics, right? The most noticeable things are that my hips are uneven and my shoulders hunch forward. Yep.. Just call me Quasimodo.

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Most of the time, I go through life never even noticing my back issues. Other times, it hurts like a bitch. I came thisclose to DNF-ing at last years Rock n Roll San Diego half because of severe back pain at mile 6ish. And I found myself nearly crying my way through my third leg of Ragnar due to my back. Sometimes it just sneaks up on me as an absolutely debilitating pain. Other times it is just a dull annoyance. Most of the time, I can’t tell I have it at all.

While each day is different, I find that there are things I can actively do to minimize the number of debilitating days.

Foam roll: I foam roll my back nearly every single time I finish a run.

Stretch: One major thing my doc told me would help is to keep my back flexible. He recommended yoga. Yoga turned out to actually be painful for me, so I have stuck to some other basic stretches.

See a doctor: I have seen an orthopedic surgeon once a year every year since I found out I had scoliosis (with the exception of since I moved to Seattle). While my degree of curvature definitely puts me in the ‘you should probably consider having the surgery’ category, my orthopedic surgeon strongly believes I am not going to need it.

See a chiropractor: I used to go once a week in high school during gymnastics season. It was great for temporary relief from the pain.

Get a massage: I used to go once a week to get a deep tissue massage. We aren’t talking a relaxing good time here. I’m talking leaving the room bruised and sore kind of massage. It was amazing.

For the most part, I have found that these things work for me. While most of the time I can go through life pain free, I always have to be very conscious of my back. And I definitely don’t take the pain free days for granted.

Do you have an injury or diagnosis that you have to be conscious of while running?

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Running with Scoliosis

  1. Oh my gosh Stacie, you are such a trooper!!! I had no idea you had scoliosis. I know when my back is sore it hurts really bad so I can’t imagine what you have to go through. You are incredible for sticking through the pain.

  2. I have scoliosis too (just lumbar). It’s hereditary and I’m sure I’m passing it on to me kids. I’m not in the “you should have surgery” category, but I really should have worn a brace when I was younger to correct it (my curve is something like 26 degrees now — it used to be 28 before I started going to the chiropractor). I go to the chiropractor twice a month and it’s so worth it.

    When you get pregnant/have kids this will definitely come into play — but if you keep doing what you’re doing it will be JUST like running — it hurts it you do nothing about it – but if you’re proactive, it’s doable!!

    • Oh my gosh. I think we are twins. First swollen fingers, now scoliosis!! One thing that worried me was definitely getting pregnant with it. I have talked to my orthopedic surgeon about it and just like you said, it’s doable. He said the more I keep my back flexible, the easier it will be on me. Hopefully, that is the truth! I’m so glad the chiropractor has been helping your back. It is amazing the relief you feel after having an adjustment!

  3. Fascinating! Thank you for sharing this, I can’t imagine running the 2nd part of a half with searing back pain… you are amazing! 🙂 If you are interested in finding a sports chiropractor in Seattle I have been going to an awesome place in Fremont for the last year, I’d highly recommend them.

    • Oh my goodness, I would love the recommendation. Can you email me with the info? Fremont is a little out of the way but I’d do it in a heartbeat if the place is good! Thank you!!!

  4. Wow Stacie, I had NO idea you had scoliosis! I do as well, with a double curvature like yours. My thoracic curve was 51* and my lumbar curve was 49*, so I was pretty close to what you are dealing with now. I have had two spinal fusions to correct this. The first in 8th grade back in 1999, which I broke, and the second in summer of 2000. I am still not straight, and have a higher hip and the opposite shoulder, but it is much better than it was previously. I now have 3 vertebra from my neck down, and 6 vertebra from my hips up that are not fused. I think my curves are somewhere around 20* now.
    The fact that you run through the pain and have such a high degree of curvature is amazing to me. I wasn’t in a ton of pain when they diagnosed me, but I can imagine how awful it makes life. Way to go, you!

    • Oh my goodness! Yours sounds pretty much exactly like mine! So, so you have a metal rod in your spine? Or are the bones just fused together. Hubs had to get the metal rod for his. It is so amazing to me how common this is and that there isn’t an easier solution for the pain. My hips and shoulders are definitely crooked too. Wow, I am so glad your curvature has dropped so much since your fusion. Be so glad you had it done young. My doc told me how much harder it is to correct once you are older. It makes me wonder if I should have had the surgery for it after all…

  5. That is pretty amazing that you are able to push through the pain! I have had back injuries in the past that flare-up every couple weeks if I’m not careful. It kept me out of a race this last week. But I can’t imagine what the pain you experience.

    I love the title of your blog! (I live in the Seattle area as well) I hope you’re enjoying this beautiful weather we are having!

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  7. I had no idea! It’s certainly not obvious from looking at you, although now I feel like the worst almost-PT in the world for not noticing at all. You realize that I’m totally going to be scoping out your hips and your back and asking you to bend over the next time I see you, right?

    Also, you’ve given some GREAT advice on how to cope with it. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

    (And, seriously, I can’t believe that I haven’t noticed it AT ALL, especially after all of the van time we spent together. I am SO FIRED.)

    • Hahaha OMG you are too funny. You are free to inspect my unevenness as much as you want next time I see you. My doc always comments about how my body has adjusted well to it, but the differences are definitely there. Now that you know about it, you will probably wonder how the heck you never saw it before! 🙂

  8. Thanks for sharing your story. I don’t have scoliosis but I did crush part of my thoracic spine in a car accident 8 yrs ago and had to have it surgically corrected with rods and screws – essentially the same surgery they do to correct scoliosis. My titanium has since been removed (since it was causing immense pain itself) and my back will never be the same. I have daily pain and suffer episodes where it gets worse and where I am almost unable to move. It has weakened the rest of my back, shoulders, hip and neck system. I need to be very careful when I run but when I’m in running shape I find i can manage the pain better. I too need to do lots of stretching, rolling, massage, chiro etc. Running helps me in the long term even if I have painful bumps along the road. I know it’s not the same but I like to find out about other runners who face back problems because I think we can all learn a lot from each other.

    • Wow! What an amazing story you have! It sounds like your surgery was VERY much like scoliosis surgery. You are SO right. We can gain so much insight by hearing each others stories. It makes me even more proud to be a runner when there are people like you who push through crazy pain. It is amazing what our bodies are capable of. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me.

  9. Lauren

    I can’t imagine having Scoliosis and running! My husband was diagnosed with Scoliosis and had a disc fusion, oh boy–Not a good idea!! He’s now going to a Chiropractor 3 times a week and he’s feeling a lot better. You should def try a massage once a month if you can 🙂 I wish you the best, I know if must be uncomfortable 😦

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