Keen dancer Chloe Sharland, from Exeter, was eleven years old when her mum took her to the doctor because she didn’t think her daughter’s spine looked quite right.
The GP somewhat bluntly agreed it was twisted and referred Chloe to a consultant who diagnosed Scoliosis. Surgery, he said, was the only option and she should come back in six months’ time to see if it had progressed enough to have the operation.
Now 24, Chloe looks back on that traumatic time with understandable indignation.
“There wasn’t any discussion – just an assumption that we’d do as we were told,” she said.
Chloe’s condition quickly got more painful, so she kept as active as possible and avoided lugging a bag at school.
“I saw the consultant again and he said I should have the operation as soon as possible. It didn’t feel right though.”
Instead, Chloe and her mum looked for alternatives. That included arranging an appointment with clinical specialist orthotist Martin Matthews so Chloe could be fitted for a Structural Scoliosis Suit. Martin is managing director of DM Orthotics, the company he founded.
“Chloe’s spine had a 50-degree curve and a twisted rotation which made her a fairly complicated case,” he said. “Her love of ballet meant she needed to be very mobile, so we used a suit with specially designed panels. The aim was to reduce her pain and help improve her standing position so she could become more upright.”
In her early teens, Chloe was growing quickly – making her spinal curvature worse. She continued to be monitored by the hospital, while making progress that the consultant didn’t think was possible with conservative measures.
“The suit made everything more bearable because it was helping my body combat gravity,” she said. “My body wanted to collapse, but the suit held me together. It helped me attend four lessons in a day rather than two and gave me that bit of extra energy to go to dance classes.”
When she was 15, temporary paralysis in Chloe’s arms and legs necessitated a short time in a wheelchair and her curves worsened to 70-degrees. Since then, progress has been slow but sure thanks to a combination of treatment from the Rock Chiropractic Clinic in Exeter, her DMO® Suit and real determination.
“I believe that managing my Scoliosis holistically is the best way forward,” she said. “I’m working part-time at the Rock clinic whilst studying for a degree in nutrition and know how important it is to invest in yourself. Patients come here every day to get better and time and time again I’ve seen the difference a positive mentality can make.
“We’re all free to make our own choices and surgery was never the right one for me. My Scoliosis will always be there, but I can function fully and it is barely visible now. Thanks to DM Orthotics and the Rock Chiropractic Clinic, I feel I have a future that’s no longer restricted by my condition.”