Published: 00:01, 04 August 2014
An aspiring dancer thought her dreams of taking to the stage had been dashed when she discovered she had a spinal condition that could leave her immobile.
Abigail Smallwood, 19, was diagnosed with scoliosis three years ago and told the only way to treat it was with a risky major operation that would stop her dancing for nine months and leave her with limited flexibility.
If untreated the condition, which causes the spine to curve sideways, can cause fatal heart and lung problems.
Abigail, of Trapfield Close in Bearsted, said: “It can cause serious pain in my back and I was desperate to find a way of avoiding surgery.
“I thought I was going to have to accept it and that was just the way life was going to be, and that I would have to give up dancing which would have been extremely hard.”
But now, thanks to an innovative exercise course, the former pupil at Cornwallis Academy, Maidstone, has avoided surgery and started a degree in dance at the University of Roehampton.
The alternative treatment involves a set of movements, which strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine and stabilise the condition.
The teenager has danced on and off since she was four years old, but only noticed the condition after a her teacher pointed out problems with her posture when she was 16.
In a state of panic, Abigail went to her aunt, a radiographer, and an X-ray confirmed she had the progressive condition, with a curve at a 25-degree angle.
"I thought I was going to have to accept it and that was just the way life was going to be, and that I would have to give up dancing which would have been extremely hard" - Abigail Smallwood
Existing treatment waits until the curve becomes so severe that the only option left is to operate, which involves metal rods being inserted either side of the spine, before it is fused solid.
In search of a miracle, Abigail and her family searched the internet for alternative treatments and discovered Scoliosis SOS.
A month-long course, at a London clinic, cost the family £3,500, but Abigail said it changed her life.
She added: “My pain has dramatically decreased through doing these exercises and my confidence has really improved.
“Now I am planning a placement in New York so I can look for dancing opportunities there.”
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