That One High Shoulder

Julie also has these bruises from scoliosis. Just kidding! We are just stepping on her thigh repeatedly.
Julie also has these bruises from scoliosis. Just kidding! We are just stepping on her thigh repeatedly.

By Julie McMillan

As a dancer, I sometimes get the question:  “have you had many injuries?”  All dancers have had them – and some continue to plague them well after they’ve happened.  I’ve been fairly lucky.  A foot injury in college left me on crutches for a couple of weeks, but I was up and dancing full a couple months later.  Anyone who knows me well, however, knows that my big “injury” doesn’t really qualify as an injury at all.  I was diagnosed with moderate scoliosis in the 8th grade and have been working with it ever since.

Scoliosis is a generally harmless sideways curvature of the spine.  Doctors have debated the causes of it for years – no one can quite agree on whether it’s genetic or idiopathic (no one in my family has it!).  Much to my dismay, screenings are mandated for scoliosis in California public schools.  I distinctly remember being one of three pulled aside and told to have a doctor check it out.  That piece of news at the age of twelve…clearly, I thought my life was over.

Luckily, parents always know what’s best.  The first doctor we saw was ready to put me on the operating table to stick metal rods in my back.  No thanks.  We visited three or four separate doctors (and took several rounds of full spine X-rays displaying a 45 degree curvature) until we heard a solution that could keep me from having surgery.  The answer:  I would be braced for an undisclosed amount of time and referred to a physical therapist twice a week.  Not really what I, personally, wanted to hear – but certainly better than the metal rod approach.

So there you have it – braced for about three years.  Kids in high school were baffled by my rock hard abs – it was plastic.  Summers were unbelievably uncomfortable – 100-degree heat with a plastic skin-tight thing.  Ugh.  I was pegged as the girl with good posture – but that’s only because it was impossible to slouch.

Years later, there’s no brace and my curvature is just as extreme as it was then.  But this is good!  It means that it hasn’t gotten any worse.  I have learned how to manage scoliosis from a dancer’s viewpoint and I wouldn’t ever wish to take it back.  So when you see Summation pictures where my one shoulder is higher than the other – yup, that’s the scoliosis for ya.

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