I have had scoliosis spinal fusion surgery
How to own your surgically fused scoliosis
If you’ve had a spinal fusion and are still in pain, maybe you’re feeling frustrated or defeated. For guidance on how to get active and take back your body, start here. While my scoliosis is not fused, I’ve worked with countless clients and Pilates teachers who have had surgery. Through mindful movement, I’ve helped them find freedom within their bodies. Whether you yourself made a choice to undergo fusion surgery or a parent made the choice for you, Spiral Spine is here to help you.
The resources below apply to people with a partial fusion of just a few vertebrae, a full fusion of the entire spine (including into the pelvis), and those who have had hardware removed but are technically still fused from bone grafts that have been placed along your vertebrae.
1. KNOW exactly what is fused on your body
The more knowledge you have about your body, the more you’ll be able to help movement and body practitioners help you. Contact your surgeon’s office to access your spinal fusion records. You’ll want to find out exactly what vertebrae levels have been fused, which method and what type of hardware was used for your surgery, and whether any other part of your body was affected (for example, if you had a bone graft taken from your hip). If you can acquire x-rays of your spine and post-op reports, these will be very helpful for both you and any movement practitioners who work with you.
If you’re not sure what levels of your vertebrae are fused and you cannot locate your records or x-rays, look at your scar. Any area of your spine that falls between the two ends of your scar should be treated as if it is surgically fused.
2. READ I Have Scoliosis; Now What?
I Have Scoliosis; Now What? is your one-stop guide to all things scoliosis. It will educate you on the physical and emotional sides of scoli and the steps to take to manage and prevent pain and give you the tools you can use to improve your curves and overall alignment at home.
3. ADHERE to the spinal fusion rules
- Stabilize the areas of the spine that are fused and never attempt to move or correct them.
- Mobilize, stabilize, and encourage biomechanically correct movements in all joints of the body that aren’t fused.
4. WATCH the Starting Point Series
These short videos will introduce you to my method and start you on the journey to owning and understanding your scoliosis. They will also help prepare you to use scoliosis-specific movement strategies.
Please note: since your spine is fused, video 3 will not apply to your body. This video discusses padding, but please do not use padding on your spine. Why? Your spine has been surgically fused in a certain position, and padding could cause an area of your fused spine to shift, which could lead to an injury or even broken hardware.
5. WATCH Scoliosis Spinal Fusion
While this video is aimed at Pilates teachers, you’ll learn how to safely move while living with a fusion. Knowledge is power for you, so the more knowledge you have on how to exercise with respect to your fusion, the more confident you’ll feel caring for your body.
6. START Moving
Movement is important to a healthy body, especially one with scoliosis. Your diagnosis and your spinal fusion don’t mean you should sit still for the rest of your life. You no longer need to live in fear that movement will hurt you and make your scoli worse. Start small with a brief daily walk to wake up your muscles and remind your body how good it feels to be active.
When you're ready for them, I have a curated list of props for at-home Pilates practice. There's even a helpful comment with each item explaining how my staff and I use it with our clients.
7. BOOK a virtual lesson with the Spiral Spine staff
Continued movement is the most important part of scoliosis care. Our virtual appointments offer the same benefits as in-person ones and Spiral Spine's skilled instructors have been providing them for years.
Virtual privates teach pad placement, show where breath needs to go, figure out and tweak at-home exercises and stretches for your particular body, address any needed rehab from surgeries or injury and check in on how you’re doing emotionally. They also teach you strategies for managing good and bad days.
Clients typically start with regular private appointments and move to scheduling appointments when they need a refresher or have an issue that needs more specialized attention.
If you’re able to find a skilled Pilates Instructor in your town who truly understands how to care for your scoliosis, I encourage you to work with them. Unfortunately, my years of experience working with people with scoli around the world has taught me that those instructors are far and few between. For that reason, I've created ways for you to care for your beautiful body through Pilates even when a local instructor is not available.
8. ATTEND Scoliosis Retreat
When you're in need of some in person care and attention, attend this two-day retreat. Anyone with scoliosis is welcome to attend, no matter if you have the degree of your curves, your are, or if you've had scoliosis surgery of any kind. Erin and her staff will work with you to help you understand your scoli.
During the retreat you will learn in a hands-on, easy-to-understand way how to:
- use a scoliometer and regularly track your progress
- appropriately pad your back
- perform research-backed strengthening and release exercises that can be done at home
- figure out the individual exercises your body needs most
- modify exercises in group classes
- develop a game plan for when you return home so you can continue helping your unique body and live your best life
9. FIND a local manual therapist
Manual therapy, not a spa massage, is an essential part of scoliosis care. Oftentimes muscles are so tight that stretching cannot sufficiently relax them. This is where a skilled manual therapist comes in. Look for someone who works with scoliosis patients or who is open to listening to you and learning how to care for your unique body. If you need more information on different kinds of manual therapists, watch video 5 in the Starting Point Series.
I recommend seeing someone on a schedule you can comfortably manage, both financially and time-wise. Infrequent visits are better than never going.
10. KEEP it up
Owning your scoli means constant, daily work, but regular movement and release will help you live your best, pain-free life. You and your spine are worth it, I promise.