Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Osteopath Says...

I've been flat-out busy with work. Feel like I'm just surfacing after a few weeks for a gulp of air before diving back down to my cave of stuff-to-do again.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to upload these pictures of my spine before the Auckland trip, and since then, work's just exploded with the upcoming end-of-year planning our clients have. Also, we've had a few guests since - K's mum came to visit again, and one of my best friends from Singapore has just left with her very cute daughter & husband (the daughter's cute. Not the husband. heh).

Anyways, thought I should probably blog this now before it gets stuck in my pile that never gets done.

I remember feeling especially freaked out for a couple of days after the Osteopath looked at my X-rays and broke down the issues I've got in my spine. This is basically what he put on the form for the Radiologist to photograph:

I'd only ever been for a chest X-ray, and it's an easy in-and-out of the room process "CLICK!" and off you go, on your way.

With what was on his list of X-rays required, you can imagine it involved quite a bit of setting up. It was still a pretty quick process, but I had to stand in profile, then face the machine, then inhale and hold my breath, then stand in profile again, open my mouth and hold it there, shake my head from side-to-side and relax my neck, holding it in its regular position...

Just the process of taking the X-rays itself made me feel weirded out (Wow, so many? Wonder what's the problem?) By the way, I was concerned about "the amount of radiation" I was exposed to, but apparently ONE flight from London to Sydney is probably the radiation equivalent of 50 X-rays, so that kind of shut me and my hypochondria up.

First off - let me just remind WHY I went to Osteopath in the first place... it was an extension of my Chiropractor visits to South Africa, to sort out my chronic shoulder knots. It's been about 5 - 7 years now that I've had them. Thought they were "ashtanga shoulders" that you hear of from Ashtanga yoga practitioners, so I stopped Ashtanga for about a year and practiced other forms of yoga. But the knots never went away.

Then when I was practising Power Yoga in Cape Town, I was convinced it was those handstands I was practising daily that made them worse. I had a brilliant Chiropractor there who helped sort out my ergonomics and made me more aware of external factors such as desk posture, computer position & eye level, she gave me little stretching exercises to do, made me more aware of how I was holding myself up throughout the day. Over a year and a half we made good progress through a process of dry-needling and ergonomics.

I was deathly afraid when I went on my month-long intensive Yoga teacher training that my shoulders would buckle with the physicality involved in the training. You know what? They didn't! My shoulders were perfectly fine! So, then I was convinced I hold stress in my shoulders. Must be work-related.

This whole process I've gone through with my shoulders has been a constant trial & error, almost like my yoga practice... some days are better than others, you discover a little bit more about yourself with each passing day, and well, you just roll with the punches I suppose.

I was doing really well after moving here in February - not needing to see anyone till August, when those knots started flaring up and coming back in full force again. Enter my friendly neighbourhood Osteopath.

Basically, long and short of it: he suspected the chronic knot that's worse in the left shoulder could be due to some kind of scoliosis in the spine. That is, a rotation in the spinal curve. He suspected this rotation came from my hips or pelvis, which looked visually misaligned. Also, one leg is about 1cm shorter than the other, and because of the rotation here, it makes the upper body overcompensate in the other direction, putting stress on one side of the shoulders more than the other.

WOW. How does that nursery rhyme go again? ..."the hip bone's connected to the... knee bone... the knee bone's connected to the..."

His suspicions were confirmed, and the X-rays also unearthed more funny goings-on...

Firstly, I have an extra lumbar disc. Yes, everyone has up to the L5, but I've also got an L6. I've got 2 extra little ribs poking out on the sides - I can make my own perfect Adam! You can count the profile of my lumbar. This in itself doesn't actually give me any problems, I'm just freaky cool (it happens to about 4 - 5% of the population?)

The other thing you can see from the above profile shot, is that my spine moves up pretty straight when the spine is supposed to be a curved "S" shape. So the straight thoracic (upper back) is probably a result of years of ballet when growing up. The tailbone also sticks out more than it should.

There's a slight scoliosis towards the bottom - you can see it more clearly here:

And the reason why the spine's rotated is because of my rotated pelvis. You can see how the tailbone's flicked out to the right a bit because of this.

Who knows why my posture does this - it could be from my torn right knee ligament 16 years ago - causing my body to put more pressure on the other side, thus screwing up my alignment.

The other freaky cool thing the X-rays unearthed: my neck is curved in the opposite direction it's supposed to go. No wonder this also compounds my neck/ shoulder issues.

I fished up an Xray of what the curvature should actually look like from the internet, and this is it (it's not me!)

(Photo credit here)

See how the neck is supposed to curve back, with your head resting on top, weighting it in the other direction? My neck looks like it's making a "C", with the big weight of my head on the end of it - if nothing's done about this in years to come, it could lead to a hunchback of Notre Dame situation. (OK, Osteopath didn't say this, it's my hypochondriac interpretation. All I can say is: Thank goodness for yoga or how off would this be looking like now?)

If you look at the front shot of my neck, you can see how this has caused my 2 top ribs (I thought these were my "top shoulders") to be compacted. This also leads to the chronic shoulder knot situation.

Funny enough, I was most freaked out about the L6 situation the whole day after seeing it. Even though this hasn't been what's been giving me problems. The Osteo said to me "you're still the same person you were 15min ago, before you saw the X-ray!" ...yeah, I was just being silly I suppose.

So, now begins the internal transformation, working on the musculoskeletal level. The Osteo's using a range of techniques from dry-needling to cranio-sacrial manipulation to trying to get me to connect everything I know of body awareness from yoga and applying that to visualizing my pelvis as I walk, and "connecting" with that now. In a sense, I guess he's bringing my spatial awareness to the misalignment there... I've just grown so used to feeling that this misalignment is the "correct" way to align that I've got to retrain the way I hold myself on an internal level.

Pretty far out stuff huh. But it makes so much rational, logical sense. I'm loving how this is all coming together. It's a long, slow process, and who knows if it'll come right since no one has "perfect posture". But it's taken my body a long time to get to this point of off-alignment, it's gonna take it a long time to figure out the right alignment again.

The Osteo says thank goodness for yoga in my case, as I could've been even more misaligned without it up til now. Also, the added body awareness I've got from yoga also makes it less abstract in trying to understand what's going on internally. All I can say is... it's definitely made me more aware of how I carry myself - from the way I walk to the way my head is positioned when sitting/ walking/ reading. Funny thing is, it feels like another aspect of yoga, off the mat.

Of course, with me, I've just got to be careful of pulling out that microscope, examining everything I do til THAT becomes yet another neurosis. ;p


  1. Pretty far out huh? ...I wonder if your sister might think this stuff is 'hocus pocus'. Works for me anyways. ;p

  2. Hi Skipetty.
    You know what is so funny...??? I just found your blog because I have exactly the same diagnosis as you do and was Google-ing it. My neck looks like a severe C as well but has another curvature (kind of a number 2) on top of it and my big, fat head sits on top.
    Also I have an extra L6 vertebrae... My doctor says that in all his years of practice, he has never seen a case as severe as mine... This is going to be an interesting (and rather expensive) summer
    Wish me luck **sigh**

  3. Wow, cool! So what's the diagnosis for you? What has the doctor prescribed for you? Since I've moved countries, I need to find a new Osteopath.

    Good luck! :)


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