Being diagnosed with scoliosis during adolescence can be upsetting for kids and parents alike. Dealing with scoliosis, or any health condition in childhood or adolescence can be difficult. For some, scoliosis is a tough pill to swallow especially since it comes at a time of life that should be care-free. At this point, the caring adults in a child’s life are not only worried about the potential effects of scoliosis, but concerns about self-esteem may also arise.
For starters, one of our pet peeves is that clinicians the field of scoliosis refer to it as a spinal “deformity.” Considering that, it’s no wonder a child’s self-esteem is affected. The terminology may make some kids feel like they’re weird or different. While we dislike the term ‘spinal deformity,’ it’s an industry norm. If/when scoliosis progresses to the point of needing scoliosis back brace, or if surgery is recommended, that only adds to the stress. This can create anxiety, self-doubt and take a toll on a child’s self-esteem.
As far as the adolescent patient, children will react differently to a scoliosis diagnosis, for some, it appears to be an annoyance; for others, it can really affect their sense of self. This will depend on the child, the severity of the curve at the time of the diagnosis and the parents’ reaction to the scenario. Sometimes, a child will experience anger or tears. And that is okay! This is normal and those emotions can help lead to acceptance. Tears and anger may simply mean that your child is processing the reality of having scoliosis. By processing and releasing negative emotions, kids with scoliosis can move on to acceptance. This is helpful when dealing with scoliosis and can even increase the resolve needed to comply with treatment. We find that kids who realize and accept that there is work to be done are more often able to make a positive impact on their scoliosis.
In our program, which focuses on pattern-specific-scoliosis rehabilitation (PSSR), we do our very best to address the array of concerns of kids and their parents. Our goal is to impart the skills needed to control curve management and empower kids. As they learn how to control scoliosis, it can help kids feel better about themselves and perhaps build self-confidence because they are taking control of the situation. Our proactive approach helps kids avoid feeling like ‘a victim of scoliosis.’ To some small degree, we attribute the success that many of our patients achieve on the empowerment. We go to extra lengths to educate kids to get them to comprehend “the big picture”. This includes the best techniques for active scoliosis management and getting kids to understand the nuances of their own unique spine when dealing with scoliosis.
Being diagnosed with scoliosis is especially difficult for kids who have concerns about their appearance and/or fitting in with their peers. Although it’s easier said than done, we encourage kids to be open with their friends about having scoliosis, instead of trying to hide it. Recently, we treated a 10-year-old girl from California whose parents brought her to our office to complete our intensive Schroth Best Practice® program and be fitted with the Cheneau-Gensingen Brace. When picking a design for her Gensingen Brace®, the girl chose the “light pink” pattern. Her reasoning? – “I want a light-colored brace so that all my friends can sign their name on it!” What an excellent idea and a special way to “embrace the brace!”
Others have found different ways of dealing with scoliosis. One of our patients wrote her college essay about scoliosis. Another patient, a teenage girl from Florida has taken the initiative to make her own scoliosis website! On her site, “Scoliosis Siblings,” she offers brace fashion tips and features interviews with other girls who have scoliosis too. Talk about ‘owning it!’
It’s not an easy road for some kids, but we are here to help and offer a dose of reality coupled with sincere compassion and all the insights we’ve gained about scoliosis and its treatment since 2001. By helping your child find a way to accept their scoliosis, you will be taking strides toward leading them to a more successful outcome and a less painful scoliosis journey.