The girl with the titanium back

Another one from the annals.

Yes, I know that the plural of anecdote is not evidence, however, hearing others stories can be empowering to  people.

This one starts with a girl of 17 who had had a number of years of back pain, a diagnosis of congenital scoliosis and, following a prolonged period of deliberation, a fairly large operation where titanium rods were inserted into her spine to make it straight.

It was only after this that I met this patient – someone going through A-levels, looking at universities, and also looking forward (with some apprehension) to a post school trip to Sri Lanka with World challenge which was going to be a hiking trip, but with additional local community building work as well. Physical building as in bricks and mortar. A fairly daunting prospect for this young lady.

When we first met, she was pretty unhappy about any kind of jumping, hopping, lifting, or anything really beyond normal day to day tasks. Despite being given the all clear from the surgeons to do whatever she wanted, there was still the overarching doubt and fear of movement borne through years of back pain enforced habit.

What to do?

No – this isn’t her. But she can do this, no problems

To begin with we started with small steps – and by that, I mean jumps. Straight off, 2 footed jumps… just tiny ones, followed by simple sit to stands and stand to sits on a chair – that soon became loaded- 1kg, 2kg, 3kg, 5kg, 10kg. All within a single session in the clinic.

She left the hour long session having jumped and moved more in a short time than in the previous few years combined – and was already beginning to gain confidence in her ability to lift, move, jump and generally live.

As expected, she ached a bit after that session. Not because of the titanium she had in her back, not because of any congenital issue, but because we were using muscles that hadn’t been used for quite a while. She ached for a couple of days and then felt a lot better. The second session carried on in much the same way as the first, but we hit the gym… no point in having a gym as a place to work up to and turn into a “thing” that is a worrying concept. No – get out there and lift.

She was introduced to Deadlifts, Back Squats, Weighted Lunges, Kettlebell swings, Overhead press, the whole lot.

Oh – the earache I got the next week about how much she ached in the proceeding days!

And so we carried on.

In a month she was Deadlifting her own body weight. In 2 months she was pretty much back squatting it. Jumps were no longer just small jumps along the floor – but box jumps – onto and off of a 24inch box – something that was previously unthinkable.

Every week she’d come back saying that her classmates were getting bored of her complaining about how much her legs ached… but she was becoming more capable.

A-levels came and went, the World Challenge trip arrived, and instead of it being a physically daunting challenge, it became – well, yes, still a challenge, but an eminently do-able one.

This isn’t her either, (she has less hairy legs…)

(after a particularly hard session in the gym I encouraged her to use that as a benchmark when in the jungles of Sri Lanka… is this bad, or would I prefer to be back in the gym doing *that* workout… apparently it never got that bad. I’m somewhat proud about how well prepared she felt!).


This young lady is now in her final year in university. I’m happy to say that she still comes back between terms to lift. Her numbers are not quite what they were when she was at her strongest, but they are significantly better than if she had never started… not only that, but there is never a complaint about pain, there is never a complaint that she can’t do something.

She is genuinely awesome and I’m happy to have been able to help. Keep lifting.


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