My brace: my friend ….my enemy!

Aurora, 15 years old, shares with us her experience with the brace.

“I wasn’t born with scoliosis. My problems began when I was ten years old, and our doctor noticed that my back wasn’t quite as straight as other people’s.

On his suggestion, I had an X-ray that confirmed that I had a scoliotic posture, which corrective exercises could correct. So, I had a few sessions with a posturologist and learned how to do the necessary exercises. My posture improved, and that seemed to be the end of it.

Since I do artistic gymnastics at a competitive level, I often have checkups with a physical therapist, and on one occasion, it was noticed that I had a twisted hip.

We talked this over with my doctor — I was 12 by this time —, and it was decided that I should have another X-ray, which showed up a very mild scoliotic curve, measuring just a few degrees, that needed to be monitored.

I continued doing my sport as usual until, at the age of 13, I started getting a strong pain in my lower back, towards the hip area. It gave me a lot of trouble throughout that year’s artistic gymnastics championship. It was such a strong, searing pain that I had to wear an elastic sheath around my back for support when training and competing. But I never gave in!

I had various tests to try and get to the bottom of this pain, and it was discovered that my scoliosis had got a lot worse, with the curve increasing from just a few degrees to more than 30° in the space of just one year. My spine now had a marked “S” shape that started at hip level and even affected one shoulder blade. The scoliosis was so bad that I had to start wearing a brace without delay.

There were several tests and procedures to go through in order to get the brace, and I received my first one when I was 14 years old. I had to wear it for at least 18 hours a day.

To tell the truth, I wasn’t particularly concerned about the prospect of wearing a brace, partly because I didn’t really know what it entailed. My immediate concern was that I would have to give up my artistic gymnastics. I couldn’t bear that thought! However, as soon as I had been reassured and put this fear behind me, I was ready to start my bracing treatment.  

The first week I really hated it and regarded the brace as an enemy. I couldn’t do the simplest thing! I couldn’t stand comfortably, and it impeded me in everything: I couldn’t put my clothes on or tie my laces, or do so many of the everyday things you normally don’t think twice about. I was really mad! Mad about having scoliosis, about having to wear a brace, and about having to put up with all that pain and discomfort. Why did it have to be me?!

Before long, though, I calmed down and accepted the situation. I was going to have to wear the brace in any case, so there was no point getting mad about it.

My gymnastics helped me a lot in this sense, first of all, because this discipline had helped me, from a young age, to get used to coping with pain and having to make certain sacrifices, and second because it was my only outlet.

When I was training or doing competitions, I would take the brace off and then put it back on again as soon as I had finished.
I have to admit that, to begin with, I felt a bit uncomfortable and embarrassed about wearing it, but those feelings soon disappeared, because I tend not to worry too much about what other people think, and just try to feel good about myself.

I’m 15 years old now, and I have already been wearing a brace for more than a year.

I have had three braces so far, having had to change them frequently due to my growth. Apart from a little pain at the beginning each time as I get used to the new “shell”, it’s all pretty straightforward and easier than before. Now, I can get dressed by myself, do up my own shoes, and so on. Basically, I don’t need anyone’s help.

There is always a degree of discomfort, that doesn’t disappear completely, but now I see my brace as a friend, not an enemy: a friend that is there to help me to solve a problem, to prevent me from getting worse, and to try and make sure that I end up with a straighter back and more attractive silhouette.

So, basically, I have learned to get along with my brace. We are so close (literally!) that I have even given it a name: Dori. I am actually grateful to it because, together with my sport, it is helping me to develop a beautiful physique and a definite waistline (which I didn’t have before). Having said that, quite often I still fall out with it and really can’t stand it!

I have learned to dress in a way that hides my brace as far as possible. I have bought new, more suitable clothes and they help me feel good about myself too!

Nearly a year has gone by now, which is great!

I still don’t know how long I am going to have to wear my brace for, as I still have some growing to do. I guess it will still be some time before I’m done.  I hope that reading about my experience has helped and reassured you, and will encourage you to tackle your own long journey with commitment and determination, just as I am doing. I want to end on a positive note: there’s light at the end of every tunnel, so don’t despair!

All the best… hang in there!”

Aury Gymnastics