Scoliosis is a condition that causes your spine to form an S shape, and this can lead to back pain, uneven shoulders & hips, and even difficulty breathing.
I discovered I had scoliosis when I was 14, when I was training in dance and figure skating 15 hours a week, and getting ready to start my GCSEs – needless to say, I never thought I would be bed bound and unable to attend school for the best part of 6 months, but I soon found myself waiting for the anaesthetist outside the operating theatre, ready for my surgery.
I now have two 30 cm titanium rods and 16 pins fusing my spine straight, keeping me upright and stopping the curve from re-appearing. I’ve moved on from dance and am working as Digital Account Manager at KVA – whilst I find sitting up hard during the day, I’m lucky to work in a supportive environment.
Managing my physical symptoms can be tricky day-to-day, and in a desk-based job I can find this especially difficult. Modern workplaces are starting to value occupational health and provide a better environment to deal with difficulties.
At KVA, this has included:
I have a 40 minute commute to work, and sit at my desk for around 8 hours a day. Whilst this may not sound exhausting, sitting up is a real challenge for me, so ensuring I take my full lunch break and spend it resting and recharging is important each day.
Being able to work from home when needed has enabled me to stay involved when the discomfort means I can’t get into work. I can stretch between meetings (sometimes doing some yoga during team phone calls!), work from my sofa and take care to rest fully, meaning I can practise preventative health and take less time off longer term.
Modifying the working environment
Unfortunately, sitting at a desk does not do wonders for our posture, so small adjustments such as a raised platform for my laptop help with this, prolonging the time I can spend without pain during the day. I also make sure to stretch often at my desk, using a mix of physiotherapy and Pilates chair-based exercises to keep active during work hours.
For a long time (a few years!) I would never mention my scoliosis to peers and colleagues, worrying I might seem weak or unable to do my job effectively. However, being more open about my difficulties have encouraged a really supportive environment and has meant that colleagues are more understanding if I need to take a day and work from home.
I’m lucky to work in such a positive environment that values my input no matter how my back feels or affects me that day. Being able to adjust the working environment to ensure my back is not an issue has been a huge relief, and I’m glad to see more and more companies taking care to accommodate employees with health problems, creating accessible workplaces.
It’s always important to look out for others, especially at work. Health problems are not always visible, and in many cases like mine, individuals may not wish to speak up about difficulties in concern of the reaction they may face. This scoliosis awareness month, we can take care to ensure the workplace is working for us, and our employees, continuing to promote health and wellbeing as a priority.