ST. GEORGE — A 13-year-old girl with scoliosis is reaching out to find others with the same condition to join the Utah chapter of an international scoliosis support group, Curvy Girls.
Ella Christilaw, of St. George, found out she had minor scoliosis when she was 9 years old, but the condition developed into a severe condition by the time she was 12. Christilaw moved to St. George from Washington state where she first became a part of the international support group.
“When I moved down here, there wasn’t one in Utah and … it was kind of a bummer because it was fun,” Christilaw said.
After Christilaw’s third-grade teacher made her aware of the abnormality in her back, she was checked out at the doctor, who excused her saying the scoliosis was minor and needed no treatment.
“They said they were going to monitor it, but they didn’t do a very good job,” Christilaw said. “When I was 12 we went in for a checkup and my mom really, really wanted me to get it checked on. My mom insisted that we see some specialists and as it turned out I really needed a brace, and I was only 15 degrees from the surgery point.”
She encourages anyone who might be told by a doctor that a minor case is nothing to worry about, to be issued a brace before it gets worse, Christilaw said. She wears her brace 18-20 hours per day, which makes it hard for her to bend, get up while laying on the floor and other activities.
Under the direction of Intermountain Healthcare Physical Therapist Mark Mills, Christilaw participates in various physical therapy exercises known as the Schroth Method.
The method is proved to help correct the spine with breathing and moving the body to keep it in line, she said.
Over the past two months, Christilaw has done the exercises everyday at home and every few weeks with Mills and, she said, has seen the improvement in her spine.
“I went to my doctor the other day and they said ‘you can barely see the hump on your back;’ and I said ‘really?!’” she said. “So I won’t have to wear the brace as much.”
Curvy Girls: We’ve got your back
As president and one of two members of the Utah chapter of Curvy Girls Scoliosis Foundation, Christilaw said she seeks to find others to join who feel they need someone to talk to about their condition and want friends who understand their situation.
The foundation’s mission statement is to support the emotional impact that scoliosis has on girls by empowering them through mutual support and acceptance to become leaders, make healthy lifestyle choices and improve their self-esteem.
Currently, one girl besides Christilaw is in the Utah chapter of Curvy Girls, and, Christilaw said, girls, women, boys and adults are welcome to the group meeting which take places at her home on the last Sunday of the month.
“We help with peer support and encouragement because having scoliosis can be hard,” she said. “With having a back brace, sometimes people tease you or you just don’t want anyone to know. It’s nice to know there are other people out there like you.”
To join Curvy Girls, call Christilaw at 435-275-2839 or email her here.
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“While scoliosis can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the cause of most scoliosis is unknown,” Mayo Clinic states on its website. “Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but some children develop spine deformities that continue to get more severe as they grow.”
Severe scoliosis can disable the patient, Mayo states. With a severe spinal curve the space in the chest and near the lungs is limited. Children with minor cases are monitored to keep the condition from worsening and, if necessary, surgery is performed.
According to WebMD LLC, a scoliosis patient needs surgery if:
- He or she has a moderate to severe spinal curve he or she has a moderate to severe spinal curve
- The spinal curve is getting worse
- Pain increases, continues and gives the patient trouble doing daily activities
- Bracing cannot be used or does not work
Curvy Girls contact
- To join Curvy Girls call Ella Christilaw at 435-275-2839 or email her here.
- Curvy Girls Scoliosis Foundation | Website| Facebook
- Mayo Clinic
- WebMD,LLC Resources
- The Schroth Method