Scoliosis Therapy Centers


Why I Wish I Wore My Brace?

ByJulie McCulley


So many times, I think back to my adolescence and I am reminded of the day I was diagnosed with scoliosis. I was called to the nurse’s office for my physical. The nurse checked my eyes, measured height, and weight, asked me some questions, then asked me to bend forward. When I stood up, she said, “Do you know you have scoliosis?” I immediately let her know I felt fine and I did not have anything wrong with me. She sent me home with a piece of paper for my mom. When my mom read it, her eyes bulged out. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. How could there be something wrong with my back. I felt like I was going to be in trouble because my parents were always telling me to sit up straight and I never listened. She told me I had to go to the doctor. I asked her what scoliosis is and she said the nurse said my spine is curved and we must have a doctor look at it.

First, how could my spine be curved, and I did not know it?

Why didn’t my parents notice it?

Was I going to have to take off my shirt in front of a doctor?

Was he going to yell at me because I do not sit up straight?

I was in disbelief. I immediately went to the bathroom to look in the mirror myself. Nope, my spine is not curved. I was convinced. A few days later, my mom took me out of school early, which was terrible. I had to get up in the middle of the class, everyone was looking at me and asking where I was going. I did not want to tell them I was going to the doctor because they would think something was wrong with me. There was nothing wrong with me! It got worse from there. At the doctor’s office, the nurse came into the room and asked me to put on a gown with the opening in the back. I was mortified. This paper gown was so ugly and embarrassing. Then the doctor came in, asked me to bend forward and explained that he agreed with the school nurse, I have scoliosis, but we would need to have a diagnostic test done to confirm the diagnosis.

I was in shock. I have a diagnosis. Is this a disease? I was sent to another room to have X-rays done. Still in this ugly gown. We returned to the first room and the doctor came in holding my X-rays and put them up on the wall. He explained that my spine is curved, and I would need to wear a brace 16-20 hours a day for the next 4 years or it could get worse and I would need surgery to fix it. How could this be? I do not have any pain. Am I going to have to wear this brace at school? What if people see it? They will make fun of me. Can I still play sports? How will I sleep in it? How could it get worse if I did not even know it was there? I had so many questions. The doctor continued to explain next steps while I sat there not hearing a word he was saying. He eventually stopped talking, paused, and asked if I had any questions, to which I replied, “Nope.” My mom and I got back into the car and she asked if I wanted lunch before returning to school. I calmly said that I was not going back to school today or ever. And then I began to sob uncontrollably. She tried to calm me down while we drove but agreed I could go home for the rest of the day.

We talked through what I was upset about and what I would need to do to fix my spine over the course of the evening. I felt better about everything, except wearing a brace. I was not looking forward to that. Two weeks later we had to go to a place for me to be measured for a brace. This was not fun either. I had to lay on this freezing cold table while this man called an Orthotist wrapped me in plaster. It was messy and got in my hair which I just hoped I would be able to wash out. Then he took about 100 measurements and said he would call when the brace was ready. A few weeks later, we went back, and he brought the brace out for me to put on. I held back the tears while he helped me put it on. I could not even bend or move in it. The first few days I only had to wear it a few hours. It was not so bad but what was I going to do when I had to start wearing it full time? I could not wear this thing to school.

I would have no friends and forget ever getting a boyfriend. I was happy that I could take it off to play field hockey. I also signed up for basketball and softball so I would not have to wear it as much. For a while I refused to wear it to school. I gave my parents such a hard time. They tried being understanding, yelling at me, punishing me, rewarding me but eventually I just flat out refused to wear it at all. It was not that it was uncomfortable from what I remember, I just decided if I did not have any pain, I did not see any reason for it. Plus, when I got an X-ray a year later it only got a little worse. So, I just did not see the purpose. The doctor was disappointed when my mom told him I refused to wear a brace. He said even if I did not need surgery that I may have pain when I got older. I did not believe that. If it did not bother me now, why would it bother me later?

Boy was I wrong, today I am a 45-year-old woman and I feel like an 80-year-old woman. I have a tremendous amount of pain in the middle of my back every day. Sometimes my lower back hurts as well. I cannot tell you what makes it hurt worse or feel better. It is different every day. I wish I could go back and talk to my younger self and tell that 12-year-old to wear the brace. My curve has progressed significantly since my initial diagnosis. I began doing a therapy called Schroth about a year ago along with wearing a brace at night. The combination of the two have helped me to be able to walk further and be more active and overall, I have less pain. I still often wonder if I had just worn the brace like I was supposed to if I would not have pain at all.

If I could give my advice to kids, I would tell them the following:

1. Scoliosis is not your fault.

2. Wearing a brace and doing physical therapy for a few years will help improve the rest of your life.

3. I thought my peers would make fun of me. If kids make fun of you, they are not worth your time.

4. Scoliosis is not a disease; it is simply a condition that requires treatment.

I also have learned that now a 3D scanner is used instead of plaster. I went to a local Orthotist to see what it was all about. It is really a cool process!

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