10 Things You Can Do with Post-Fusion Scoliosis


I am not very good at sitting still nor do I like being told I can’t do something. After my surgery in 1992, I clearly remember my doctor telling me the only thing I couldn’t do was “ski off tall buildings”. Sooooo, the sky’s the limit in my book!

People ask me regularly, “Are you sure about that?” or “What about your back?”

Word of advice: don’t let other people tell you what you can or can’t do. Let your body tell you what you can and can’t do… unless your doctor makes a strong advisement.

In all things, pay attention to your body and know your limitations.

1. Ride a horse

Meet my horse, Jinni. I named her after a horse in my favorite movie Hidalgo. She’s a smart, stubborn ball of spunk and I adore her!

Because of my fusion, I don’t gallop across the fields at full speed but, I do ride her on trails and around the fields.

2. Snowboard (and ski)

The first time I ever tried skiing was around 2000 in The Poconos, Pennsylvania. When I moved to the Mt. Hood area in Oregon, I transitioned to snowboarding. Just my personal preference, really. I don’t like my legs going two different directions when I fall… trust me, it’s happened! Again, this is another activity where I play it safe. I generally stick to bunny trails because I’ve been hit before at a high rate of speed by some risk-taker who wasn’t paying attention. Risk-takers, in my experience, tend to gravitate away from the bunny trails.


3. Be an EMT

I got involved with Emergency Services in 2007 and haven’t looked back. I began in Search & Rescue, which eventually lead me to earning my EMT. Despite the commonly low EMT wages, I don’t want to be anything else when I grow up.

According to the National Center for Biotechnical Information, the #1 work-related injury sustained by EMTs is back strains or sprains. People constantly question my ability to lift, as a result. But, you know what? The reason why most people injure their back is because of improper lifting techniques. Fortunately, I’ve always lifted things using my legs. Not sure if that’s a result of my spinal fusion or if it’s just something I’ve always done.

I personally don’t believe I’m anymore at risk than any of my fellow co-workers and honestly, I think I have an advantage because I can’t twist or arch my spine.


4. Be a firefighter

I joined a local volunteer fire department in 2010 solely to gain more experience as an EMT. The chief asked me to go through fire academy because he wanted more females in the department, so I accepted. I graduated fire academy in May, 2010 and retired as Lieutenant in 2015. Firefighting is very strenuous but I enjoyed every minute of it! I was lucky to never experience any injuries. I retired mainly to protect my lungs – COPD is common in my family history. If you decide to get into firefighting or EMS, I highly recommend participating in a weightlifting program.

(I’m in the front holding the nozzle)

5. Yoga

My first Yoga experience was Hot Yoga in 2009. Now that I have some experience, I prefer doing yoga at home. Check out Yoga With Adriene and Sarah Beth Yoga on YouTube. They both offer pre-recorded sessions you can follow along with. What I like about yoga is that you are taught to listen to what your body is telling you. Poses range from beginner to advanced. In many cases you have the option to modify the pose or skip the pose altogether and move on. It’s slow and relaxing; perfect for loosening up the muscles and maintaining or improving flexibility. If you’ve never done yoga before I highly recommend taking an in-person beginner class first so you grasp the fundamentals and avoid injury down the road.

6. Run

I absolutely love to run. I personally recommend running on grass or a rubber track if you’re prone to back or joint pain – or even better, run in a swimming pool. As I age however, running has become increasingly more painful around my knees and hips. I believe the stress on my knees and hips is directly related to my uneven skeletal structure and running on hard surfaces.

7. Dance

Scoliosis has not slowed me down when it comes to dancing. I love it! I may look a little awkward, but who cares? I’m having fun! If you’re an adult, many dance studios offer adult classes nowadays. Dance your heart out!

8. Winter Guard

Taking dance to another level, I competed in Indoor Color Guard (WGI Circuit) in 1997 with the University of Delaware and 2001 with The Guard. If you’ve never heard of Winter Guard, it’s the flag (and in some cases rifle and sabre) section of the marching band without the marching band. Winter Guard performs indoor to recorded music. There were some dance moves I couldn’t do because of my spinal fusion but my directors were always very accommodating to my inability.

(I’m the 3rd person from the left, 1st row)14962560_10210979389338182_4823210898180772609_n

9. Ice skate (and roller blade or roller skate)

My college roommate Ann Marie and I used to go ice skating at the University of Delaware nearly every weekend when we were students. Back in the mid to late 90s it only cost students $2.00! She and I eventually bought matching roller blades so we didn’t have to wait until the weekend when the rink was open to anyone. Funny thing, I just donated those same roller blades a few months ago! I haven’t been local to an ice rink in a long time. Man, I miss it!

10. Bicycle

I’m not a huge fan of bicycling but it’s definitely something I can do comfortably; I prefer running or hiking. Mountain biking and street bicycling are very popular in Oregon. Contact a bike shop to help adjust your bike correctly to your height. It will help relieve unnecessary pressure in your back, hips, and knees.

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The Beginning of my Scoliosis Journey

My mom noticed something was structurally different about my back when I was about 6 years old. When I was about 8 or 9, she took me to A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware where I was officially diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis. Typically, Scoliosis doesn’t occur until after the age of 10. Idiopathic Scoliosis basically means the spine curves for an unknown reason. I have an S-curve; my spine curves side-to-side like the letter S. But it’s much more complicated than that – like most others with Scoliosis, my spine also spirals slightly.

Shortly after diagnosis, I was fitted for a back brace which I wore 23 hours a day, 7 days a week until I was 14. Unfortunately, my Scoliosis was severe and rapidly changing despite the brace. In the summer of 1992 both of my curves were 60+ degrees. Spinal fusion surgery is strongly suggested for curves over 30 degrees. So, in August, 1992 I had spinal fusion surgery from T-1 to L-4 or in other words, from the base of my neck, to the top of my tail bone. Both of my curves were improved to a little over 30 degrees. I have 4 stainless steel rods which have added 4 lbs to my total body weight. (Note: The surgery I went through is an older process. Nowadays, spinal fusion surgeries are much less complicated and use less hardware.) The purpose of the rods is to hold the spine in place while live bone taken from another site in the body (mine was taken from my left hip) grows around the spine. Once the bone has  grown around the spine, fusing it together, the rods are no longer needed. However, it’s not recommended to have the rods removed; they are buried deep under years of bone growth. My doctor compared removing the rods to spelunking!

It is now 24 years later and thankfully I have not had any major complications. I am for the most part pain-free; though, I have developed other bone disorders secondary to my scoliosis and spinal fusion. I will discuss those in a future blog post.

These two x-rays were taken in 2005:
(Ignore the weird discolorations! I took photos of my x-rays against my windows.)



I took these two photos today, October 19, 2016:


I stood as straight as I physically could for these photos. I centered the blue cross on my neck. As you can see, my Scoliosis affects my entire skeletal structure. I am 5’5″ but I estimate without my scoliosis I would be about 5’9″. I tell ya what – it’s a pain in the rear to find clothes that fit properly!

I have many more stories and information about Scoliosis to share, so stay tuned! 🙂