Woman with scoliosis reveals how weights helped her curved spine: ‘It changed my life in so many ways’

Eva Butterly. (Mediadrumworld/ Eva Butterly/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA)
Eva Butterly. (Mediadrumworld/ Eva Butterly/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA)

Scoliosis caused this woman to grow just 1,4 metres tall, but that hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her dream as a professional bodybuilder.

Eva Butterly from Dublin, Ireland, was diagnosed as a 12-year-old with severe adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, a condition where the spine twists or grows to the side. Teachers had noticed Eva’s shoulders were slumped to one side.

The now 28-year-old, who describes her diagnosis as shocking at the time, had not experienced back pain before her diagnosis and seemingly developed a hump on her upper back “overnight”. 

Eva Butterly
Eva Butterly. (Mediadrumworld/ Eva Butterly/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA)

“As a young person, it [scoliosis] was a lot to take in,” Eva reveals. “I don't think I fully understood the seriousness of my particular scoliosis, which was probably a good thing.”

Growing up, Eva didn’t know anyone else with the same condition, which was often difficult for her to deal with.

At age 13 she underwent partial spinal fusion surgery to fuse some of her vertebrae. Although the surgery helped her move around freely, she still had some degree of curvature in her spine.

(Mediadrumworld/ Eva Butterly/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.
Eva Butterly. (Mediadrumworld/ Eva Butterly/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA)

Spinal fusion surgery also meant that Eva’s growth was stunted in her upper body, leaving her with long legs and a shorter torso than usual.

And while the personal trainer struggled to come to terms with this when she was younger, she’s now proud of her “mini human frame” – thanks to discovering fitness and weightlifting.

“I learnt to work with my body instead of against it. Weight training really helped with this.

“Weightlifting , I developed self-confidence, incredible physical strength and I was able to sculpt the body I always dreamt of. I never thought this would be possible for someone like me,” she said.

Although specialists advised Eva to avoid contact sports and intense physical activities, she fell in love with weightlifting at age 18 and can now deadlift an impressive 120kg.

She also does five training sessions a day, in the gym and running on the mountain.

Eva Butterly
Eva Butterly. (Mediadrumworld/ Eva Butterly/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA)

Eva, who was introduced to weightlifting by her brother, says it’s boosted her self-confidence and encouraged her to develop a body she’s proud of – she’s even competed in bikini athlete bodybuilding competitions and powerlifting meets, placing fourth in bodybuilding.

“I loved the sport straight away and the sense of confidence and strength it gave me.

“It [bodybuilding] has definitely shown me that I can be a competitive athlete despite having a spinal condition. I never let scoliosis be a deciding factor in my decision to take part in athletic endeavours.”

Even though Eva, who’s also keen on trail running and hill walking, isn’t sure of the degree of curvature in her spine, she never lets her condition hold her back from achieving anything.

She hopes to show people that they don’t need to let any condition stop them from living life and has set up a personal training business, Warrior Fitness, to help others with their mental and physical strength.

Eva Butterly
Eva Butterly. (Mediadrumworld/ Eva Butterly/MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA)

“No matter what life has thrown at you, or what physical limitation you have been dealt, there’s always something you can do to help yourself feel better,” a proud Eva said.

“I’m here to help you become the strongest possible version of yourself.

“My message is to never let scoliosis or any other condition you’re faced with stop you from making the most of your life.

“No matter what position you’re in, there’s always something you can do to help yourself get stronger mentally and physically.”

Like Eva, Britain’s Princess Eugenie was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was 12 years old and has been using her profile to raise awareness.

In 2018 on International Scoliosis Awareness Day, the 30-year-old daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson shared an X-ray of her back on Instagram, following her back surgery.

"I’m very proud to share my X-rays for the very first time,” Princess Eugenie captioned her post.  “I also want to honour the incredible staff at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital who work tirelessly to save lives and make people better.”

The princess also proudly showed off her back scar while donning a fitted corset and pleated skirt with a long train designed by Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos at her wedding ceremony in 2018, Reuters reports.

“The dress features a neckline that folds around the shoulders to a low back that drapes into a flowing full-length train,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

Princess Eugenie in her wedding dress
Princess Eugenie in her wedding dress. (Photo: Getty Images)

“The low back feature on the dress was at the specific request of Princess Eugenie who had surgery aged 12 to correct scoliosis.”

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that appears in late childhood or adolescence, according to Mayo Clinic.

Instead of growing straight, the spine develops a lateral curvature which can cause rotation of the ribcage.

Scoliosis can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, but the cause is often unknown. Although most cases are mild, some spine deformities might worsen as the person gets older. 

In some severe causes, the spinal curve can compress the space in the chest, which often leads to the person’s lungs not being able to function properly.

Sources: Magazine Features, Instagram, Mayo Clinic

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