Dancer avoids surgery with alternative treatment

Community Newsgroup: Emily Bancroft Emily Bancroft

MAJOR surgery to correct a curved spine threatened the dancing career of Macclesfield teenager, Emily Bancroft.

At the age of nine, Emily - now 13 - was found to have scoliosis, an excessive sideways curvature of the spine which consultants said could only be corrected by surgery. The procedure would involve metal rods being inserted on either side of the spine, putting an end to Emily’s hopes of being a ballet dancer.

In December 2005, she was referred to an orthopaedic consultant who took X-rays of her spine and she was told she had two options. One was to leave it and see how it developed, although the curve would probably get worse as her ‘growth spurt’ was still to come.

The other option was a brace or surgery, but surgery was not recommended until the curve gets to forty degrees. Another x-ray, however, revealed that the curve had progressed from twenty eight degrees to forty eight degrees in just over six months, so surgery was considered to be the only course.

“When I was told I needed surgery, Mum and I just burst into tears,” said Emily.

“Surgery meant fusing my bones together, meaning I wouldn’t grow, and an end to my dancing career. We didn’t want the surgery, but the consultant put us down on the waiting list anyway, as he probably thought I was just upset and would change my mind.

“My surgery was scheduled for the summer, but as it got closer I began to realise how much I was going to miss my dancing.”

Emily’s mum Sally postponed the surgery once to avoid it interfering with Emily’s school work and started trying to find an alternative before the day arrived. Then a colleague saw an advertisement for a scoliosis treatment clinic in Suffolk and, in desperation, Emily attended for a consultation.

After tests, scans on her spine and measurements of its rotation were taken, Emily was accepted on the treatment programme and booked in for a course in the summer holidays. The surgery appointment was cancelled.

Emily, who had previously tried pilates, said: “Although the first week was very challenging, as the course progressed the exercises became easier. Even though the actual movements were more difficult, they felt easier because you were used to them.”

At the end of the course, the family met the doctor in charge who showed them test results from the beginning and end of the course. There was considerable improvement, which encouraged Emily to continue with the exercises.

“Now, I just feel really happy that I’ve found something I can do about my scoliosis,” she said.

“I probably won’t end up as a professional ballerina, but at least I know that I can still dance, whereas if I had had the surgery that would have been it. I hope other dancers with scoliosis manage to get the help they need and are not pushed into having surgery and losing their hobby or career. If I met someone else who had scoliosis, I’d definitely recommend Scoliosis SOS.”

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