Supporting People With Scoliosis

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“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

Wendy Mass, The Candymakers

Scoliosis is a serious medical condition. As we know it, it is defined as the abnormal curvature of a person’s spine, causing a person with a severe condition to have some difficulties and discomforts. It has a serious impact on one’s physical health. However, that is not the only case. In reality, people with this condition are not the only people affected by it but also their loved ones and family members. Emotional and psychological side effects of scoliosis can be as detrimental and impactful to one’s life, it can be even more, than its physical side effects. 

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Since most people with this condition are often diagnosed during their childhood and adolescence stage, the traumas and the psychological effects of this can be long-term. Growing up, people with this condition can be viewed as different by other people their age, which could commonly result in name-calling, bullying, and other sorts of harassment. According to a study, 30 percent of people with scoliosis had felt a sense of emptiness their entire life. Children with this condition, compared to others, are more likely to have suicidal thoughts especially when chronic pain is being experienced. 

From what has been mentioned, it is very clear that scoliosis causes mental and psychological side effects to people who have the condition.

Psychological Side Effects

Low self-esteem. People with scoliosis are more likely to be self-conscious about their bodies and physical appearance. We, as people, sometimes tend to compare ourselves to other people. I am not exempt from that. Living in this generation where beauty standards are high and impossible under capitalism, being different is viewed as ugly. Feeling like an outcast can be emotionally traumatizing which could negatively impact how we view ourselves and communicate and socialize with other people which could result to…

Relationship problems. Because people with scoliosis can have very low self-esteem, socializing with other people and building relationships can be hard for them, leading to being antisocial which could further lead to isolation. The physical symptoms of scoliosis a child might experience could make them feel limited in how they can socialize and participate in activities their peers might be doing, which could cause them to be judged an outcast. 

Overall, the negative impact of this condition on one’s emotions and psychological health is serious. With this, supporting, showing love, and showing compassion to people with this condition is important. Our actions might mean so much to other people, especially to people with scoliosis. 

How Should We Communicate to People With Scoliosis?

It is important to be mindful of our words. When talking to people about their condition, we should avoid using negative words and connotations such as “hunchback”, “hump”, “deformity”, and “disease”. We should instead use the word “curves” to address it. Having curves is never a bad thing, and people have curves. It is normal! Also, we should avoid joking about their condition. Here in the Philippines, joking about one’s insecurity is slowly being normalized by friends and family which is not a good thing. It may be just a joke for you, but it is something sensitive for the other person. Be sensitive.

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Be supportive and encouraging. One of the best things we can do for someone with scoliosis—even people with other kinds of conditions, or someone having a rough day—is to remind them that they are not alone. Many celebrities, actresses, musicians, and athletes have scoliosis. One of them is the famous American actress Shailene Woodley who was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 15. Scoliosis has never stopped her from being successful, beautiful, and confident! A star who beat the odds! Also, try to understand them by researching scoliosis, joining support groups for people with scoliosis, and engaging and asking questions about the condition. This way, you can develop empathy and understanding. Knowing more about what it is like to be like them could be very helpful to communicate with them properly.

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Be respectful. People with scoliosis live their lives the way they want to. Some people are very open to sharing their lives, information about their condition, and even listening to other people’s advice, while other people choose to be reserved, quiet, and peaceful. They prefer just keeping their stories to themselves and we should respect that. We should not tell them what they should do and how they should live unless they seek advice from us. We should avoid telling them information that they might not appreciate. Some information might be very sensitive for them and that is okay. We should always keep in mind to respect their privacy.

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Be sensitive. It is easy to throw jokes at people without realizing that we have already offended them. We may be just telling them advice that we think would help them but they may receive it differently and that is okay. As a speaker, it is our responsibility to watch our words. Be kind and be aware.

Be aware of signs of depression. A study has shown that teenagers and adolescents having scoliosis are more prone to depression, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse. The impact of scoliosis on one’s emotional well-being and psychological health is serious. If you are suspecting that a person you know is depressed, do not be afraid to ask them what you can do to help or seek advice from an expert. We should never ignore the signs of depression because this, if neglected, could lead to something worse. Don’t be afraid to help and to seek help from a professional.

Photo from: Families First Pediatrics

Be compassionate but not condescending. Understand people with scoliosis because living with the condition is never easy. But at the same time, do not feel sorry for them because it wouldn’t help them. Treating someone with scoliosis differently because of their condition might make them self-conscious and make them doubt their strength and capabilities as a person. Instead, we should encourage them to be better; not feel helpless and sorry for themselves, and cheer them up when they need to be cheered up. We should be understanding without making them feel less of a person.

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Be honest and optimistic. Everyone deserves to know the truth about their health status and condition. We should never take away their rights from them. The truth may be scary and intimidating sometimes but we should never lose hope. We should always maintain a positive attitude and optimism because that could help them. 

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Living with scoliosis is hard so we should never just take it as something easy. Different people react to the same situation differently so we should avoid comparing situations. After all, it is the patient’s battle and we are only here to support. Let’s always be kind, compassionate, and supportive not just to people with disabilities but to everyone.


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