5 Self Care Tips for Scoliosis
Over the past year, I have been living life on full speed, and as a result, have recently made myself pretty ill and run down. This has been very frustrating for me, as I’ve not been able to run or do the things I enjoy for a while. But this forced rest has made me realise something. That although I have been trying to focus on myself over the last 8 months or so and trying to fit in time for self-care, I actually haven’t been looking after myself in many ways.
I’ve been trying to keep up with people in my run club, see all my friends, work full time and meet my goals and in the process, I’ve completely neglected my health. Busy schedules, lack of sleep, not eating properly, 4 half marathons, long training runs, too much alcohol and trying to do everything all the time for everyone has resulted in a complete burn-out and an illness that has lasted far longer than it should have done. It’s made me realise that I need to make some changes to my life. I can’t do everything all the time and I need to make the time and space in my schedule sometimes to rest and recover.
These self care tips can be for anyone, not just for those with scoliosis but I feel that these are some things that I need to start doing to ensure I don’t let myself get this run down again.
1. Try not to compare yourself or compete with others
This is a big one and I’m very guilty of this. I will use the example of my running. Before I got ill, I was pushing myself. I did the Great North Run in September, which I trained hard for and as a result I felt strong in this race, I did well and got a good time. Shortly after this race, I got ill with a virus, but continued to train for my next half marathon in October even though I wasn’t well. I went on 10 mile training runs and really struggled. I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the others, I had zero energy and felt like I couldn’t breathe properly. But I didn’t stop and even though I wasn’t feeling great, I completed the Manchester Half (in the rain), despite the fact that I felt like I was going to faint half way round and really had to slow down. After this race, I continued to train for my next half marathon which was the Conway Half, but again, I was struggling badly to run at a pace I was normally fine with. I felt rubbish, like I was unfit and failing.
It was shortly after this, that one weekend I got really ill and then, couldn’t run at all. I skipped all my training that weekend, then went to the Dr and was given an inhaler and antibiotics for a chest infection. Writing this down now, I know I was stupid to run the Manchester Half Marathon that day, but I didn’t want to miss out. As a result I felt crap and made myself feel 10 times worse. I was trying to keep up with everyone else, while neglecting my own health in the process.
Another thing is that this year I got caught up in trying to get faster and keep up with the faster runners in my run club. If I did a race and didn’t get a time I was happy with, I would feel a failure. I’ve been reflecting on this while I’ve not been able to run and thinking, I would do anything just to be able to run now, I don’t even care how fast. I think I got so caught up in it all, and trying to keep up with others, that I forgot how amazing it is just to be able to run a half marathon, never mind the speed.
From now on, I’m just going to try and focus on myself and what I’m doing and try not to worry about everyone else. I shouldn’t compare myself to others because (even though this is not an excuse!) running in general is more difficult for me. I do have a reduced lung capacity, muscle imbalances and leg numbness, which I’m sure will affect my ability compared to those without scoliosis. I tend to forget that sometimes.
I guess what I’m trying to say in this long winded way is, depending on the severity, having scoliosis can give you certain limitations that you should be aware of when comparing yourself to others (and not be so hard on yourself, anything and everything you do and achieve is amazing!)
2. Look after your physical health
If you have scoliosis, keeping active is important and it doesn’t have to be strenuous. It’s important to keep the back and core muscles strong to help with back pain and to protect the back from injury. Activities such as Yoga, Pilates, stretching and physiotherapy can all help with this (as well as helping with your emotional well-being too!)
REST is also just as important for physical health – and this is crucial for everyone, not just if you have scoliosis.
I’m usually of the opinion that there is no time for sleeping and I’d normally rather be doing a million other things than sleeping. However, I’m going to try and make a conscious effort to get enough sleep, cut down on alcohol and eat better going forwards.
3. Look after your EMOTIONAL health
I’ve been really tying to focus on my emotional health recently by taking a bit of time out for therapeutic activities such as yoga, meditation or mindfulness. There are many apps you can use for this, such as as Head Space for example. There are also some good meditation and yoga videos on YouTube so you can fit these around your day.
Another thing that it is important (and something that I personally find very difficult) is learning to say no sometimes. If you are tired, in pain or don’t feel like doing something, don’t feel bad about saying no and taking some time out to yourself.
Similarly reducing time on social media and not looking at your phone an hour or so before you go to sleep can also go a long way to helping to look after your emotional health and well-being.
4. Practice self-care
Related to the above, self-care is so important for mental well-being. Things I’ve tried more of this year including reading a self help book each month, listening to uplifting podcasts and having regular hot bubble baths. Relaxing in a hot bubble bath is perfect for those of us with scoliosis and back pain as it can help to ease tight muscles. I also find that having a bit of me time where I can relax and read a book really helps. Prior to this year, I never used to do things like this and I would be too busy for a bath (I always had a shower) but since I’ve been living on my own I’ve made a real conscious effort to make time for me. I’ve started self care Sunday’s, where I try to have an hour in the bath with my music and some candles.
Another thing which can be good for scoliosis (and a nice treat!) is to have a massage every now and again. Not only can this be relaxing, it can also ease to help tight muscles and relieve pain.
5. It’s good to talk
This one will be different for everyone, but having scoliosis has certainly affected my self esteem and mental health over the years.
The psychological effects of scoliosis are so often overlooked and can be just as bad as the physical symptoms and pain. Talking and dealing with all the emotions is so important but when I was a teenager I tended to hide my condition and keep things bottled up. I’ve recently started counseling and I think to be honest, I should maybe have had some counseling years ago to help me deal with the diagnosis and surgery.
One thing I did do though when I was contemplating and researching surgery, was to join a scoliosis support forum and talk to others with scoliosis who were going through the same.
If you are feeling alone or need someone to talk to, then I would really recommend doing this. It helped me so much as I made some good friends and felt less alone after hearing others’ experiences. A good site for support is the Scoliosis Association.