It’s time we talk about the mental and emotional toll scoliosis can have on you.
Studies have found that scoliosis patients are 45% more likely to feel ashamed of their bodies and that roughly six out of ten people are dissatisfied with the way they look.
On top of that, many people receive a scoliosis diagnosis in the pre-teen or teen years.
That can have a major impact on someone’s life — not fitting in with your peers, not being the standard of beauty we grew up seeing in magazines and on TV (and for kids now, on Instagram). All of that can have a heavy impact on the way we view ourselves, and it stays with us well into adulthood.
When I (Beth) was first diagnosed with scoliosis I was very self conscious about my rib prominence. I would hide or cover myself in the locker room before sports because I didn’t want people to notice it. When I started lifting weights, I was always self conscious if teammates or competitors would notice my ribs sticking out when I bent forward to pick up the barbell.
And while I know it’s easier said than done, you don’t have to live in the constant cycle of nitpicking and obsessing over the things you don’t love about yourself — yes, even with scoliosis.
Today, I’m sharing something I’ve learned in the 18 years I’ve had scoliosis, as well as what I’ve observed while working with patients who have had scoliosis for nearly 8 years.
Whether it’s a certain outfit or an activity, scoliosis doesn’t own you and doesn't tell you what to do. I know that stepping out of your comfort zone and wearing that bathing suit or certain top, whatever it may be for you, can be terrifying. You worry about what people will think about you or even whisper behind your back.
You worry that you’ll be left out of doing things you love, like hiking or beach days, because it always strains you in a way it doesn’t do to others. You don’t want to be seen as a bother, so you feel like your only options are to suffer through it or gracefully bow out.
I know it can be tough, but don’t let scoliosis stop you from living a life you love.
I often imagine what would have happened if I stopped lifting weights because someone told me not to with scoliosis. It would have completely changed the trajectory of my life! If I hadn’t stood on a national stage in weightlifting, I would have never met another physical therapist and learned about my future career. If I didn’t attend PT school, I never would have learned about Schroth or met my mentor in the field. If I didn’t train in Schroth, I never would have had the confidence to help others with scoliosis get stronger. There would be no Strength and Spine!
Are you worried that people are constantly judging you? Or talking about the way you look? Or are you upset with yourself for missing activities and events? The truth is, they’re not thinking about it nearly as much as you are.
To you, your curve may be obvious, but people aren’t looking at your back all the time like you do.
Your friend hates her natural hair color. Your sister is constantly obsessing over her nose. Your uncle talks a lot about how he’s losing hair.
I could go on and on because we all have insecurities about our bodies, even those we admire the most. Or the people that seem too confident to have a care in the world.
What you think of you is more important than what others think about you. I know that may sound a little cliche, but it’s true. You only need the acceptance of one person, and that’s you.
Plus, this is the only body you’ll ever have, so learn to love it.
And if you’re worried about what people may think if you opt out of certain things because of your scoliosis (even though everyone else is doing them)...just remember they’re not the ones that have to deal with the consequences that follow.
They’re not the ones that have to live with the pain that lasts for weeks after doing one wrong rep at the gym. Or that comes with too much standing. But you do. Might as well make yourself comfortable and enjoy life because the bottom line is…it doesn’t impact them like it does you.
I know that scoliosis can be quite painful at times, but living in constant pain isn’t normal and it isn’t necessary. There are things you can do to help manage that pain and prevent it from spiking up again — like consistent strength training and other forms of physical activity.
In fact, that’s the premise of everything we do here at Strength and Spine. I started this practice after several years of working as a Schroth physical therapist and realizing the scoliosis community needed more.
Now, we’ve developed several courses, 1:1 coaching, and group coaching programs that are specifically designed for folks with scoliosis. Take a look at how we can work together to help you find your strength and learn to love your curves.
And remember, you’re pretty great — scoliosis and all.
Beth Terranova, PT, DPT
Start today on an exercise program that helps you become empowered, strong, and confident in your scoliosis curve.
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