"Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that affects two to three percent of the population, or an estimated 7 million people in the United States. Most are diagnosed with scoliosis between the ages of 10 and 15, but the condition also affects infants and adults. It is a condition that affects people of all races, classes and both genders. Girls are eight times more likely than boys to have a curve that will progress to a magnitude that requires treatment. Scoliosis is common in children with a variety of congenital and neuromuscular diseases, but it is most prevalent in seemingly healthy children, with no known cause (idiopathic)."
Source: National Scoliosis Foundation
Watch this video for a short overview of scoliosis, brace treatment, and spinal fusion.
There are many scoliosis foundations in the United States that provide valuable resources for patients and parents. The National Scoliosis Foundation is focused on patient advocacy and support. One of their goals is to have mandatory scoliosis screenings for 5th graders in every school.
Early detection is a key factor in long term prognosis, because scoliosis can go undetected until the condition requires emergency treatment or becomes completely untreatable. Learn more about early detection here.
One of the newest technologies developed by human beings, 3D printing, is changing the game of scoliosis treatment. 3D printing and modeling is allowing technitians to make more accurate braces that are lighter and cooler.
3D modeling is also changing spinal fusion through the re-creation of a patient's spine from a CT scan that allows surgeons to plan and execute more accurate surgeries and achieve better results.
A forgotten part of scoliosis is the effect it can have on the mind and emotions. The outward effects of scoliosis can often have a negative effect on a patient’s self-confidence. Additionally, experiencing chronic pain has been linked to anxiety and depression.
It is important to remember that having open communication about the emotions that one experiences may not always happen with a parent, doctor, or guardian. Counseling may be a helpful step for anyone, at any stage, who has been diagnosed with scoliosis.
Scoliosis is often a condition that hides in plain sight. There are an estimated 6 million people in the United States living with scoliosis and another 200 million around the world. There are countless others who have shared their fight online in the hope that they can inspire others. HelpformyScoliosis.com has a page of powerful inspirational quotes.
More inspiration can be found in the lives of those living and thriving with their diagnosis. Some are famous, some are not, but all have wisdom and strength to share.
“I believe scars are like memories that tell a story on your body, that remind you how strong you had to be, and that you survived to talk about it.
Your scars are a way of communicating, and sharing a trauma can be healing in so many ways. It can release that stigma you might have given to yourself and by talking about it you can show people how they can heal, too.”
Source: The Telegraph
Louise Lorie (helpformyscoliosis.com)
"Recovery was one of the toughest and most painful experiences of my life. It took me years to fully recover as your back affects everything you do. I couldn’t bend, lift or twist for about 6 months and I had to re-learn simple things that you take for granted, like how to walk again, sit up and get out of bed. Every case is different but I would say, mindset is everything. I used to feel so down about my back but I’ve realised that having scoliosis does not have to hold you back, you can achieve anything you put your mind to."
In 2018, Louise hiked the Great Wall of China and has completed the Tough Mudder race, an extreme test of physical strength and endurance. She is a great inspiration and example for what life can look like after surgery.
“It was so severe I had to have a spinal fusion where they put 8-inch metal rods and screws in my spine. I just took off one year where I didn’t do any physical activity. But then, of course, I was terrified. It’s so strange … It felt like having an operation and then healing and going back to your real body. It was really like having a new center of gravity and getting used to a new body.”
Source: Hudson Valley Scoliosis Center
Usain Bolt's scoliosis diganosis as a teenager has not kept him from achieiving greatness. Researchers have found evidence that his scoliosis may actually help him be the fastest man in the world. The curve in the spine causes the hips to become uneven. This can create an uneven gait while walking, or in Bolt's case, running. While this can cause increased muscle fatigue, it appears that Bolt gets an extra boost of power due to the extra application of force.
Source: The New York Times
A world renowned cellist, Yo Yo Ma lived through one of the worst case senarios of scoliosis: two curves (both over 60 degrees) discovered in his mid-twenties. There was no choice but to go forward with spinal fusion because of the impact scoliosis had on his quality of life. The risks of the surgery were enormous, but he emerged stronger on the other side.
"In one way, it was a most wonderful thing to go through, because you think about what's important - you may come out being able to play the cello but if not, you realize you can still go on and lead a productive life. Music also deals with life-and-death questions, sickness, overcoming tragedy. So those things you've gone through add to your life experience and therefore your understanding of the music, and there's more depth to your communicating of the music."
Source: Hudson Valley Scoliosis
As if being a teenage actor was not challenging enough, Shailene was diganosed while staring on the ABC show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Her doctor placed her in a brace for two years to hopefully avoid surgery. Shailene had to wear the brace behind the scenes while filming, taking it off when in front of the camera. Her treatment was successful even with the challenges. She continues to recognize the strength that season of her life has given her.
Source: Web MD