How Mason Tackles School, Sports, and Life with her Scoliosis Brace
At 12 years old, Mason was diagnosed with scoliosis. To help hold the curve and prevent progression, Mason began wearing a scoliosis brace, otherwise known as a thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis. Mason is now 15 years old, continues to make great progress with her team of specialists, and looks forward to the day she no longer needs to wear her scoliosis brace.
Scoliosis and the Teenage Years
Megan Chamis, MSPO, CO, helps clarify everything from what scoliosis is to how it’s treated, and even what the treatment journey looks like for families.
When Mason was 12 years old, she noticed her shoulder was making an odd noise. Her mom, Laine, decided she should have the family pediatrician check it out. At the appointment, the pediatrician examined Mason’s back and noticed that her shoulder blades were not properly aligned. Mason was sent over to Children’s Mercy in Kansas City for X-rays.
The results confirmed Mason had scoliosis. The “s” curve in her spine showed an upper curve of 26 and a lower curve of 11. Mason’s family met with orthotist Brian Kerl, CO, at Hanger Clinic in Overland Park, Kansas.
“He was so thorough and compassionate. I was fit for a Boston brace, and we walked through what the next couple of years with bracing would entail. The main goal would be to hold the scoliosis curve and prevent progression.”
Mason sought out the advice of her grandmother who struggled on and off with scoliosis since she was a child. Treatment options were not the same for her grandmother growing up, causing her to suffer with back pain throughout her life. She encouraged Mason to follow the orthotist’s instructions and be compliant about wearing her brace to allow her body the best opportunity once she reached adulthood.
“I decided right then and there that I was going to strictly follow the wearing schedule for my scoliosis brace. My body was still growing, and this was my chance to help it grow in the best direction possible. At first, wearing the scoliosis brace 18 hours a day was not easy. But I got used to it, and it just became part of my daily routine.”
When Brian retired, Mason started working with Allison Gordon at Hanger Clinic.
“It’s been over two years since I started wearing my scoliosis brace. Each time I visit Hanger Clinic for a follow up, Allison is so encouraging and works with me. We look at the X-rays together, and Allison looks for opportunities to make the brace more efficient in holding my curve.”
Mason’s bracing has been going well. She is now 15 years old, has grown four inches since she first started wearing the brace, and her curve is about 3 degrees.
“I feel fortunate that the scoliosis brace has been able to help me.”
Clothing and Bracing
As Mason adapted to wearing her scoliosis brace, she found clothing options that worked better for her.
“I modified my clothing a bit to fit around the brace, so I didn’t look like a rectangle.
My brace had front straps, so I would wear a camisole or tank top over my brace to help conceal the straps. For shorts, I preferred to buy a bigger size to fit around the waist of the brace.
I was always slightly warmer with my brace on, too. I adapted my clothing and wore layers so I could adjust easier to temperature changes.
I also received body socks to wear under the brace. This provided me with some separation between my brace and clothing. The body sock is long, so I prefer to put it under my brace, then fold the remaining fabric at the bottom up and around the outside of my brace. This also helped protect my clothing from rubbing and wearing down on the Velcro straps.”
Tips for Going Back to School
We’ve developed a guide with helpful tips and tricks to help families with a child who has an orthosis or prosthesis navigate the new school year.
Going to School
When Mason first started wearing her scoliosis brace at 12 years old, she was a bit nervous about going back to school.
“I wanted to be normal and fit in like everyone else. I knew that wearing the scoliosis brace was not forever. My friends were very supportive, and when people asked me, I shared with them why I wear the brace. I tried to maintain a positive attitude about it, and not let it change me socially. I see the back pain my grandma experiences, and I want the opportunity to try to help myself later in life by wearing my brace now. You have to do it for yourself.
When it came to my teachers, I would talk to them in the beginning of the year so they would understand if I needed more time for any reason. For example, I was typically late after gym class going to my other classes because I had to put my brace back on. I had great teachers that were really understanding.”
The scoliosis brace did not prevent Mason from enjoying sports and activities.
“I played basketball and ran cross country. I would take off the brace for sports and to participate in gym class. It was nice to get exercise for my back. Participating in the Schroth Method of physical therapy has also helped to strengthen my back and improve my posture. I may have to adapt slightly during certain activities, but I do not feel limited.
I’m forever grateful to the team of doctors, physical therapists, and to Brian and Allison at Hanger Clinic. I look forward to the day I do not have to wear my scoliosis brace anymore, but I think every person feels that way. My advice to others with scoliosis who wear a brace is to follow the wearing schedule your orthotist gives to you. It gets easier and is not forever.”
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