My scoliosis journey spans 3 countries – Nigeria, India and the UK. Soon after my son’s birth in Lagos, Nigeria, I started to experience terrible back pain. I couldn’t carry my son and walk around. I couldn’t bend forward and bathe him. My pain baffled the midwives and gynaecologist in Nigeria and was dismissed as having a low threshold of pain.
I travelled to India after 3 months to meet with an Orthopaedic specialist who diagnosed my scoliosis. I was not shocked or baffled by it as my sister was diagnosed with C-shaped scoliosis and had corrective surgery when she was 15 years old. But what made my condition different was that it was a non-surgical case. I had to do exercises and rest to keep the pain under control. While I could do the exercises, the one-hour bed rest after every 3 hours that was recommended was not practical. My pain continued and I learnt to live with it. It affected my personality and my temper. I started to lose my temper at a drop of a hat.
After two years of living with this pain, I saw a physiotherapist who immediately diagnosed the cause of my pain. To put it in layman’s terms, my right side was weak and couldn’t take any load, and my left side was overloaded and had become very sore.
She recommended a few stretching exercises that are meant to activate the muscles that I continue to do every day. However, to become pain free I had to learn to balance my weight every minute of my day. I would split my shopping and carry them in both hands. I stopped carrying a handbag, instead I started to use a backpack. Stopped putting weight on one leg, always conscious of balancing my body weight, not to overburden a single side of the body. This helped me to manage my pain for a while.
However, the pain returned with a vengeance when I moved to the UK and started to work in London as a digital marketing manager for a technology company. The daily commuting in London made my pain worse.
Every morning I used to get up from sleep more tired and in pain. So, I started to do my own research and decided to invest in an orthopaedic mattress and pillow which could support my weight. It was very unusual in the beginning to lie on hard surfaces but within a few days I started to notice that I didn’t experience any pain in the mornings.
I have to be mindful of how I stand, sit and lie down every minute of every day to remain pain-free and be an active mother to a very active five-and-a-half-year-old son. As a result of COVID, I have moved out of London and was working from home which has helped immensely to manage my condition.
I am sharing this story to make people understand how being in pain all the time affected every aspect of my life – personal and professional. By making a few adjustments to my lifestyle though, I can remain pain-free. A very critical element of it is avoiding the daily commute to work. If I can work from home, it could hugely improve the quality of my life.
I hope one of the positive legacies of Covid-19 is the employer’s realisation that not every job requires one to be at the office. If remote working becomes the norm, it would help people like me to earn a living and have a better quality of life.