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8.4.15

So You Need To Wear A Back Brace


The doctor sits behind a computer screen across from you and after a few clicks and taps on the keyboard they turn to you and say, "So, you have Scoliosis."
Your now new doctor for the next few years gives you a straight-faced explanation they've repeated a dozen times. Their voice is gentle, everything will be okay, this isn't as bad as it sounds.
So let me get this straight, my spine is curved in what can be estimated as a 30 degree angle, and could potentially shift over time causing my hips to twist upwards and all my bones and organs to be crushed and mutilated, because of gravity? 
Your doctor gives you your worst case scenario knowing full well that won't happen because we have these things called back braces for those who caught it early, and surgery for the very worst code red case. They give you a rundown on the different Scoliosis "shapes"; the C curve, the humpback, the inward curve and my personal favourite, (the one I am stuck with for eternity) the S curve.
So, my spine is curved and the angle is nearing the danger zone needing a back brace... what's going to happen now?

The best thing about wearing a back brace (and the only good thing) is that it reduces the need for surgery and if your spine behaves, you won't need that risky procedure at all. 
The bad things, well, it depends on who you are and how you cope but everyone is pretty much in the same boat. So, you need a back brace. Here is what's going to happen now. 

You will be uncomfortable for the next 2 and a half years. Or however long it takes until you stop growing and no longer need it. | You will be wearing this heavy, thick, rock solid plastic thing up to 23 hours a day, every day and you won't be able to bend, twist or move your body in any direction that isn't swaying back and forth or crouching up and down. Your body will be squished inside and you will die during the summer (although you will be warmer in winter) and learning to sleep comfortably will be a challenge. You'll probably need to replace your bra's with sports ones that have no padding, no hooks or wire, just soft fabric and they will wear out fast. You'll need to get some cheap but long enough singlets to wear under the brace to stop it from sticking to your skin and they will wear out fast. Oh and period pain will suck more.
Dressing will be difficult and any fashion sense you had will disappear. | Depending on your curve, your brace will either take up half of your body or just your waist - lucky you if you're the latter. Either way the brace will add extra width to make you look wider and the huge, medical grade velcro straps will stick out beyond belief. Say goodbye to anything tight fitting and say hello to baggy t-shirts, jumpers and layers to try and hide the brace. Dresses will be the only thing that is going to work for you now, so I hope you like dresses. 
You're going to need to watch how much you eat. | Unlike my parents who ignored my doctor's warnings and force fed me too much and then shut me out when I was writhing in pain on the floor, you will need to come up with a meal plan to figure out how much you'll be able to eat in one sitting. This is great news for those hoping to end up smaller around the waist and belly (your torso will look great!) Thanks to this new addition to your life that must be worn breathtakingly tight all day, literally, your stomach won't be able to expand when you eat, so if you eat too much you will end up with a lot of damn pain and difficulties breathing. Eat smaller meals regularly throughout the day, gauge how much you can personally eat without the pain and stick to lighter foods. 
Believe it or not, no one will notice it. | Unless you're wearing clothing that shows the back brace off (tight fitting, low cuts, crop tops) no new people you meet will know there's even something wrong, in fact, they may just think you have incredible posture thanks to the plastic stiffness. This gives you a 1-up if anyone tries to surprise stab you from behind and their knife breaks off on the plastic - haha! Sucker! 
Getting the common cold will likely result in bruised ribs that add to the pain and discomfort and will extend your recovery time. | Have you ever tried coughing violently while inside a tight, plastic body extension that doesn't allow your ribs to expand and causes them to knock against the hard material? Ouch. Try not to get sick.
When you stop growing, you will only need to wear it for up to 12 hours a day, for only a few more months. | Would you like to wear it while you sleep, or during the day? Uh, while I sleep please, I ain't gonna even know the difference while I'm asleep. 
Years later, you may have nightmares. | Vivid dreams in which you're still wearing it and the pain, heat and discomfort is so real it feels like just yesterday you had it on. The relief when you wake up is too good. 
To keep your spine in its new condition, you will need to be active. | Walk, run, take the stairs, do pilates or yoga. Anything that will strengthen and stretch your spine regularly will not only feel amazing but will keep your newly straighter spine in good condition. You will have back pain regularly and your spine will lock up, so any stretches and exercise that work the spine will feel so good both while you exercise and after. It's also very beneficial.  

And always remember that it's temporary - the back brace that is. Unfortunately, the Scoliosis is permanent and hospital checkups every few years is now part of your future my friend. But the actual back brace is temporary and it will be over before you know it. The day your doctor looks up from their computer screen for the 50th time, smiles and says, "You no longer need to wear that back brace," will be the happiest day of your life. "You can either keep it as a memoir or give it to us," they'll say. Do I look like I want to remember this time? You can have the damn thing, take it now, burn it, I don't care. You'll walk out of that hospital a new person, free and light.
Sleeping will be a whole new experience you'll no longer take for granted and will cherish. You can wear whatever you want now and wear it comfortably. You can eat! You can bend! To quote Joanne of The House Bunny, "I can bend, look guys, I can bend!"
This will be the first day of the rest of your life. 


Photo by Gisela Giardino

- Sheree

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