Young Highland lawyer who endured years of pain from warping of her spine declares 'miracle' recovery after turning to physiotherapist
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A young lawyer who endured three years of pain and distress from a profound warping to her spine has experienced life-changing recovery at the hands of a local physiotherapist.
Only a few weeks ago, Inverness woman Jenna Gallacher (26) was “at the point of despair” and facing the unpalatable prospect of major spinal surgery on the severe, unexplained deformity called scoliosis.
With the sudden onset impacting almost every aspect of her life, the up-and-coming boxer and fitness enthusiast found hospital specialists at a loss to help.
The only potential solution on offer was a highly invasive spinal fusion operation, with metal rods inserted, that risked complications from infection to nerve damage, paralysis and even death.
With ordinary life certain to be severely impacted during a year’s recovery time, she was reluctant to do this.
As a last throw of the dice, Ms Gallacher turned to Steven Newlands, a physio she first met through boxing – and the relief was almost instant.
As well as the aesthetics of straightening her spine, the massage therapy treatment relieved pain and eased stomach disorders symptomatic of the scoliosis.
Ms Gallacher said: “During 2018, I started getting lower back pain and that was when my mum, who happens to be a GP, spotted it.
“It was a bit of a fluke. I’d never worn fake tan in my life, but decided to put some on and asked my mum to help me.
“She said ‘oh my God, Jen, your spine!’
“She could see it was severely twisted, a severe scoliosis. We were flummoxed because I’d had a perfectly straight spine before. It was just really weird.”
From there, worry mounted as specialists diagnosed idiopathic – unexplained – scoliosis and struggled to find a solution.
She said: “It began to affect all manner of things. My work as a trainee property solicitor, became difficult as I could be desk-bound eight hours a day and constantly needed to stretch for relief.
“I was 23 and it made me very self-conscious. One of my ribs protruded right out, while the twist in my spine was very visible with certain clothes.
“I know that might sound like a minor thing, but as a young woman it made me feel a bit rubbish about myself.
“There was a lot of worry. In hospital, they told me it could be a horrible spinal cancer. I had a really worrying few weeks wait for an MRI scan that, thankfully, came back all-clear.”
The Highland Boxing Academy novice, with her first competitive fight looming next month, turned to Newlands Sports Therapy based at the Bught’s TaeKwonDo Centre.
She could barely believe the transformation.
Ms Gallacher said: “I was amazed. Even after the first session, my spine looked straighter. By the second, Steven had almost completely straightened it.
“I can’t believe the difference it has made. It was painful, but well worth it!
“None of the past physio referrals had helped and I was at the point of despair. I don’t use the word ‘miracle’ lightly, but it actually feels like that.”
Mr Newlands (35), a former forester and engineering undergraduate, set up as a fully qualified physio four years ago.
He had dealt with cases of scoliosis before but never one so severe.
He said: “In sports therapy, they teach you about scoliosis but always say if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t deal with it.
“I knew Jenna was at her wits end, getting nowhere with specialists. Steel rods in her spine would have seriously limited her mobility. I thought I’d give it a crack.”
The physio drew on a clutch of different techniques, including dry-needling, cryotherapy and cupping to ease pain and relax certain muscles.
Highland Institute of Massage qualifications had taught him to manipulate muscles around the spine.
Mr Newlands added: “The way I looked at it was I needed to untwist her spine and re-set her rib cage.
“I worked to relax the muscles down one side that were pulling her spine into the S-shape, so I was unable to untwist it.
“One of my qualifications is in spine mobility so I was quite comfortable shifting it vertebrae by vertebrae. I basically used a whole heap of different techniques to get it done.
“Another two or three visits and she should be absolutely fine.
“It just makes me so happy to be able to make such a positive impact on someone’s life.”