Life – A game of Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders was probably one of the first board games that I was introduced to (it came in a combo pack with Ludo, Checkers, and Parcheesi). While almost all board games need at least one or more opponent(s) to play with, Snakes and Ladders can be played against the board. Roll a die to see how far and high you can travel on the board or how deep into the snake’s belly you fall. Either way, a combined effort of persistent trials will lead one to victory. With that mindset here’s where I ssstand in this chapter of my life – a game of Snakes and Ladders!

Game On

Board game image: online free printable

Although I was a hyper active child, I was quite fragile. I loved to participate in every sport at school, but somehow my health would fail me and I would often cry to my dad, “Why am I so weak?” He would encourage me to play outdoors and stay active. He would often say (in Tamil)…

“sevuru irundhalthan chittiram varaya mudiyum.”

TNR (my dad)

This statement literally means you can paint only if there is a wall. The meaning of this quote is that you can achieve your goals only if you are alive and fit. A valuable life lesson, to not ignore our health. After seeing so many cases of people succumbing to ill health at a young age, this has become is my life’s motto.

So every time my body slows down, my dad’s words give me the courage to bounce back. I would remind myself that I’m more fortunate than many others – at least I’m alive and can figure this out. I’ve tried several strength training regimes to help myself but every single method fell apart after the first few weeks and my trainers could never figure out why my body was unable to level up.

Life is no different than a game of Snakes and Ladders. Every individual born in this world has to go through his/her share of ups and downs to reach the purpose of their lives. You may be curious – why am I talking about this old mundane board game today? Well, the past few months haven’t been easy on me. A few of you are aware of my tryst with my wandering crystals. Not long after I found my balance and started to feel some normalcy in my life (my two steps up on the Ladder) everything came to a freeze with my neck and shoulders deciding to take a break and limiting their activities.

I am not against anyone needing some time off to unwind and rejuvenate after a bout of strenuous activity (which for me unfortunately is even lifting a gallon of milk). But this time, I was baffled by the fact that the cause for my body’s pause was merely grinding a couple of spices with a tiny mortar and pestle – leading to a month of my life going down the Snake’s gut. 

One step forward, two steps backwards – does this echo with your life? If your answer is “NO” please drop me a note, I would love to learn your secret for a normal pain free life.

Ok that’s just the broad set up folks, let’s dive in for some more complex drama going on behind the scenes…

I visited my physician’s office, frustrated that I was back to square one. I had to go through an entire cycle of four weeks of rest and recovery with a load of pain medications shoved down my system. The snake had bitten me but my doctor was a big source of positivity – my ladder of hope. I have to say that this time around I found just the right physician. She was equally unhappy to see me go through the same sore back and shoulder issues twice in less than a year. 

She was determined to thoroughly investigate what was causing all these back-to-back back problems for me. But with nothing definitive to pin-point, it was more like dice being rolled to zero down the root cause (lab work, x-rays, MRIs – the works). After ruling out autoimmune disorders, gluten insensitivity, and rheumatoid factor she arrived at DDD – degenerative disc disease. The word ‘disease’ made me panic but thankfully it wasn’t terrible. With age, your bones and tissues degenerate and the aging occurs at different times for different individuals as each human body is unique. It was just accelerated for me.

But what was this DDD doing to my back? Further investigation led me more exciting times in our game. Apparently I had a spine that was curved to the side. This condition, known as Scoliosis, was my big Snake in the game. Although I may not be able to straighten my spine fully, the good news is that the degree of my curvature does not warrant surgery. Rehabilitation options for this condition are to embrace a brace which I can avoid if I learn to train my body with the help of special exercises called Schroth exercises. These are done with the help of stall bars which literally look like Ladders. 

3c Scoliosis

Thus began my game of Snakes and Ladders which I was, and still am, determined to win!

Three weeks into Schroth therapy, I have realized how perfect the analogy of Snakes and Ladders applied to me. During my 2nd session with my therapist, I learnt a new method of breathing called Schroth breaths. My therapist taught me to correct my body posture by making a few techniques that are specific to my spine curvature. While holding those minute corrections, I had to take a deep breath in and exhale slowly with a quiet hiss – letting air out from between my front teeth. This was quite intriguing – how a simple change in the way I breathe can be a game changer. If you hear me hiss the next time, know that I am one step closer to a pain free back and that I am loving my game time! I have also learnt that conscious posture correction works wonders when done properly with guidance from qualified professionals.

While I was looking for help, I found out that scoliosis mostly occurs in adolescents, especially females, when the growth spurt is about to begin. If undetected, it can become worse by the time our height has peaked. I urge all parents to watch your child’s back for anything unusual and have them tested with your doctors. Here in the US and in Canada, physicians check the health of young kids’ spines during their annual physical, but when I was young and back in India, we were complete strangers to the words Scoliosis or Kyphosis.

Control your Scoliosis

The most important thing is to have a positive attitude!

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight

Phyllis Diller

And on that note, let’s get back to something that gives us pleasure – food! Check out some mouth-watering recipes here, and as always, please comment, share, and subscribe!

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