Patient Stories

Joyce Sierra

My story with scoliosis

I am Joyce Arrieta Sierra, I am from Barranquilla, Colombia and I have lived in Miami for 5 years.

From a young age, I have had many problems with my legs and hips. I have always experienced severe pain. The family doctor said that this pain was caused by growing pains and he was not sure if the pain was associated with Scoliosis.

At 12 years old, I noticed that my body was asymmetrical. I had one side of my waist more defined than the other and a more protruding shoulder blade. So, we decided to go to the doctor again and that was when they told me that I had severe scoliosis of the Thoracic spine and the Lumbar spine.  He said I needed surgery to correct my scoliosis.

The news was heartbreaking for me. I was highly active in sports, belonged to the school dance group, and was a cheerleader. The thought that I could not participate or perform my everyday movements was very scary, I did not want to have surgery.

At 14 years of age, my curvature had increased from 40 to 55 degrees in my thoracic spine and from 34 to 44 degrees in the lumbar portion. There was no way to avoid surgery. It was very hard to accept that the only solution was to have surgery and that after that there would be exercises that I would not be able to practice in the gym or that I could not do again for the rest of my life.

After the surgery they told me that the only sport they recommended was swimming to strengthen the muscles of the back, however I did not like swimming, so I only practiced it for a short season.

When I arrived in Miami, I met my trainer, she also has scoliosis but mild enough that she has not needed to be operated on. For the first time I met someone who understood my condition and the pain I suffered. We started a process to strengthen my back muscles by doing High Intensity Strength Training and Olympic weightlifting. Thanks to this I no longer have pain in my lower lumbar portion of my back.

When I was 26 years old, my doctor told me that I had to remove the instruments because it had become loose and no longer had any function in my back since my spine is completely fused, that is, the vertebrae’s are fused together like a single bone. My post-operative was very painful, the muscles spreading out to the space that the metal rod implants had been in for 11 years and nerves reattaching. With exercises, massages, and even platelet-rich plasma injections into my back, my doctor allowed me to participate in, I managed to start a true recovery after 3 months and was able to compete at my first Olympic weightlifting competition 5 months after surgery.

Now I have a little mobility in my trunk, less pain, and a defined back that I never thought I would have.

16 months ago, at 30 years old I had my first baby. Pregnancy had always been a topic that scared me because my doctor told me that I should have a caesarean section under general anesthesia since the fusion of my back would not allow me to have an epidural. I had always dreamed of being a mother and having a natural birth. I prepared myself physically, mentally, and spiritually to achieve my goal and achieve a pregnancy without any type of back pain and a natural delivery and without anesthesia. 8 months after delivery I went back to competing in Olympic weightlifting.

Today I believe that I can overcome any obstacle with perseverance and faith within God. The key to achieving any goal is to always think positive and trust in God.


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