In many countries across the globe like the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and others, the month of June is marked as Scoliosis Awareness Month.
In Canada, Scoliosis Awareness Day is marked on June 1. Canada also has a unique peer-support group called the "Curvy Girls Ottawa" for teens with scoliosis. Such peer-lead groups encourage and motivate other young people to comply and actively participate in their treatment. This group was started by Leah Stoltz who went through the anguish of braces and surgery during adolescence. The group's mission is to provide emotional support to other girls, enable self-acceptance and empower them to adopt a healthy lifestyle. There are a total of 65 scoliosis support groups connected to this international network.
AdvertisementThough scoliosis is not a rare disease, it disrupts the lives of individuals physically, psychologically and socially. People with scoliosis often have to deal with the frightening aspect of living with a physical deformity and feel socially isolated. In order to bring them together and create awareness among families and communities, the Scoliosis Association UK launched the first International Scoliosis Awareness Day in 2013. Since then the month of June is of great significance for people living with scoliosis.
What is Scoliosis?A normal spine is usually straight while a spine with scoliosis presents a curvature. Scoliosis curves are of three types: a single curve to the left like a C-shape, a single curve to the right like a backward C or two curves in the shape of the letter S.
It usually manifests during childhood or adolescence. Most of the cases are idiopathic with no known cause. Mild scoliosis usually does not require treatment but individuals need to be regularly monitored with x-rays. Moderate scoliosis is usually treated with braces while severe scoliosis requires a surgical procedure known as posterior spinal fusion with metal implants and bone grafts.
Untreated scoliosis can cause compression of space required for the heart and lungs causing serious cardiovascular and respiratory problems.
Scoliosis affects approximately 2-3 percent of the population. An extrapolated estimate indicates that nearly 3.2 million of India's total population suffer from scoliosis.
Implications of living with scoliosis
Scoliosis presents significant physical, social and psychological implications for children, teens and young adults.
There have been numerous studies on the psychological impact of scoliosis and treatment. Many young people feel socially discriminated due to the awkwardness of wearing braces. Teens and young adults are often dissatisfied with their appearance and may have a negative body image. Many teens and young adults go through a period of initial depression and social withdrawal as they do not want to be seen wearing braces in public.
Apart from the psychosocial impact of coping with scoliosis, young people also face significant discomfort from wearing braces. Most patients are required to wear braces for 13-16 hours/day. This causes physical discomfort including redness, irritation, itching, a sense of tightness and difficulty in breathing and eating.
To cope with physical and psychological discomfort, adequate family support and external counselling is required. Peer-support is usually the best form of informal counseling where people with similar issues exchange ideas and information on coping.
Significance of International Scoliosis Day
The National Scoliosis Awareness Month Campaign in the United States outlines the following objectives:
- To highlight the importance of early screening and detection to avoid surgical interventions.
- To increase public awareness of scoliosis in the community through advocacy and educational activities.
- To bring together patients, families, caregivers, clinicians and support specialists into positive collaborative partnerships.
- To build better community collaborations to sustain the campaign.
International Scoliosis Day is also marked with conferences, workshops and common platforms to discuss clinical and non-clinical issues faced by people with scoliosis. Such networking provides patients and families with latest information about clinical interventions and prospects for future therapies and curatives. It also highlights the significance of greater clinical research for better treatment modalities.