I wish Ortholese braces had been around when I had my brace. Mine was a plain pale pink skin colour, so was my daughter’s brace. Ortholese make fittings for a brace so much easier with fun patterns to choose from, taking everyone’s minds off the whole ordeal, with the added bonus that they are more welcoming to put on every day.
My Scoliosis and why I wrote the book
I was asked to write The Scoliosis Handbook by Liz Bord from ASPIRE Leisure Centre at RNOH because she was struggling to work out what exercises were suitable for patients with a rod in their spine without the knowledge of scoliosis. She asked me to write an informed practical guide including exercise Do’s and Don’ts and I included a Tips chapter.
I have been a personal trainer for 23 years. During that time I have come across both children and adults with scoliosis – pre surgery and post surgery, brace believers and wearers and non brace believers, people who are not so affected by scoliosis and others who are terribly self-conscious and frightened.
My scoliosis was discovered in an exercise class when I was 15 years old, by my best friend and her mother, who was the instructor. I was doing a back stretch at the end of a class – hands on the bar, bent over, knees slightly bent, flat back... only mine wasn’t.
Advised to exercise, I took those sound words to heart and have exercised ever since. Working out has been my saviour and if I don’t train I start to get dull backache. It’s kept me strong and the reason why I recovered so well after all my surgeries.
I have had three scoliosis and rib correction surgeries:
1987 – aged 20
1989 – aged 23
2015 – aged 49
Scoliosis can be genetic. When my daughter Zoe was 15, I noticed that a slight curvature had developed. I took her to see a consultant and he diagnosed scoliosis and decided that bracing was needed. He explained that, as Zoe was at the end of her adolescence and had nearly stopped growing, it would be an ideal time to do this and she had a very good prognosis for a positive outcome.
The result? Zoe’s scoliosis reduced from a 28-degree thoracic curvature to 18 degrees, then settled and naturally fused at 22 degrees.
Zoe’s message to you
Hello, my name is Zoe and I’m 24 and scoliosis free.
When I was 15 I was told that I had scoliosis and enough of a curvature of my spine to wear a back brace – not exactly ideal when you’re in school. I was really upset about having to wear a brace, embarrassed and worried about what my friends or other people in my year would think as I didn’t know anyone else with the same problem.
At first I was angry and hardly wore it, but then I realised if I just sucked it up and didn’t care what people thought, I would have a straight back and the chore of wearing an uncomfortable, thick, plastic bodice would soon be over.
So I wore it every night and as much in the day as I could, because I knew that dealing with my scoliosis was exactly what I needed to do to get rid of it.
The brace really helped me and I hope anyone reading this who is in my position understands that your health is the most important thing and choosing to wear a brace over having a curved spine is a no-brainer. I’m happy I dealt with my back properly as I am now practically straight. It was definitely worth it and I urge anyone in my position to do the same.
I have a lifestyle Tips chapter in The Scoliosis Handbook covering topics including sleeping, playing sports and travel. Here are my tips to help you feel more comfortable when wearing your brace.
Under your brace, try a really thin, good quality, extra-length vest with a high back so the plastic doesn’t stick to you. Velvet, Splendid and Intimissi are brands that make soft, comfortable vests. It is better to splash out on two or three of these as the comfort you will gain is worth the spend. Plus, if they are super-fine, they will dry quickly. In winter, use a baggy sweater or loose shirt that has length. In summer, A-line T-shirts or a pretty blouse will work best. If you want to wear a dress I would keep it boxy but short and wear it with strong gripping biker boots. Any stretchy leggings that sit low on your hips, so the waistband misses the start of your scar, will be good – jeans with a zip will be really uncomfortable.
For guys – same advice regarding vests. If you are keeping it casual, go for trackies and baggy tops. For suits, I would purchase a cheap one and go up a size, then bin it as soon as you get rid of your brace.
If you wear an Ortholese brace you can have lots of fun with design and bright colours and match it up to your clothes.
The Scoliosis Handbook of safe and effective exercises pre and post surgery is on sale now.