“I was enormously motivated to optimise my recovery”
Liz, 31, had a 12-level spinal fusion to correct a scoliosis. She joined R&R on the sunny Algarve for a week of intensive rehab. Here is her story of her time with us.
by Lucy Nifontova
Liz, 31, was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 13. In January 2019 she had a twelve-level spinal fusion from T3-L3 to correct a 50 degree progressive curvature of her thoracic spine. “With my wedding scheduled for next year, I was enormously motivated to make my recovery as optimal as I could”, Liz says.
“Before my surgery, I expressed concerns to my consultant about the recovery from the operation. He recommended to me that I join Restore and Reform for their week-long intensive Scoliosis Correction Recovery Programme. He told me that other patients of his had benefitted enormously from doing the programme after similar surgeries”, Liz says. “Because of this I knew that I could trust the team.” She was keen to speak to someone about their experience with a similar surgery, and so the R&R team put her in touch with Sarah, a former client who had participated in a programme 9 weeks post scoliosis correction.
Liz also commenced a pre-operative exercise programme, and went down to the operating theatre in excellent condition with a good level of fitness and core strength. Six weeks to the day after her surgery, with her doctor’s sign off that she was fit to fly and to participate in the programme, she joined Restore and Reform in Portugal. “I wanted to learn how to live with my new spine”, she says. “I was determined that I was going to be able to return to exercise, which I love, after my operation. I knew that by joining the programme, I was giving myself the best chance of doing this”.
“I knew I was in the safest of hands”
Liz was nervous at first, and felt very fragile after such a big surgery. “Despite this, I was immediately put at ease on arrival and knew that I was in the safest of hands.” “Because Liz had done so much Pilates before the surgery, she had a good understanding of how her body moved which helped enormously with her recovery” says Michelle Lewis, R&R’s Lead Physio. Michelle observed in Liz’s initial physiotherapy appointment that Liz had full range of movement in her neck, although she carried tightness around her shoulders.
“Liz also had tightness in her hamstrings and very limited movement in her lumbar spine”, says Michelle. “It was imperative to get her lumbar spine moving again, and to teach her how to mobilise, pain-free, the parts of her spine which were still capable of segmental movement.”
Designing Liz’s bespoke programme
Liz’s goal was to sensibly re-condition to her pre-surgical level of fitness. A programme was put in place which focussed on Liz gaining confidence, working on her lumbar pelvic mobility, and to focus on segmental spinal movement. “Her programme also focussed on hip dissociation, glute strengthening, scapular dissociation and strengthening of the shoulder girdles, her core and her hips”, says Michelle.
“My programme was designed with obvious thought and care and was completely bespoke for my needs”, says Liz. She came on in leaps and bounds over the week, ending her last reformer session with exercises which demonstrated her core strength and lumbar mobility. “Liz’s commitment to her rehab was admirable”, says Lucy Nifontova, R&R’s lead Pilates instructor. “Afraid of nothing, she safely pushed her body, and, importantly, learnt her limitations.”
Liz also found huge benefit from getting away from home. “Having been stuck inside for weeks and reliant on friends and family for six weeks, it was empowering to be able to get away and to reclaim my independence again. The benefits to my mental health were significant, and having booked onto the programme before my surgery, it was fantastic to have the R&R programme to look forward to”.
“A marathon not a sprint”
Liz had very realistic expectations for her recovery. She clearly understood that the surgery was a challenge in itself, but the changes that would follow to her soft issue adjustment and posture would take a little longer to balance.
“Finding and activating muscles that had been previously dormant due to her pre-operative posture, stretching and releasing tight muscles that she had become over-reliant on, and learning how to move within her capabilities without overloading other parts of her body were the foundation of her recovery”, says Michelle. “Liz has been exceptional at understanding her recovery pathway, and has sensibly built herself a strong foundation to build from and achieve her goals. She has been enormously rewarding to work with”.
“I reclaimed my body”
Liz says “I would recommend this programme to anyone undergoing a similar surgery without hesitation. The knowledge of the team is exceptional, and it was an incredibly fun, rewarding week, and gave me a chance to reclaim my body”.