If your head started spinning before the doctor left the room, you are not alone. You immediately began to surf the web for information, which probably served to increase your anxiety instead of putting your mind at ease. There is so much out there, much of it contradictory. A major component of what I do at RHINO is to help patients and families understand scoliosis and their options, and formulate a plan to handle the anxiety inherent with this diagnosis.
Here are the 10 most common fears expressed by my patients over the years:
1. Fear of the future natural course of the condition because there is currently no cure
2. Threat of having to wear a brace
3. Threat of surgery
4. Fear of deformity
5. Fear of increasing/chronic pain and being unable to do the things you love to do
6. Fear of heart/lung pressure
7. Fear of passing scoliosis on to your kids
8. Potential of being bullied
9. Judgment from well-meaning others who disagree with your treatment choice
10. Fear of doing the wrong thing
I have found that most anxieties and fears can be managed by doing 4 things:
1. Increase knowledge.
The unknown can be frightening. Get knowledgeable! Read. Take notes. Value peer-reviewed research over individual anecdotes. Value case studies with objective results such as x-ray improvements, lung volume increases, etc. over subjective results, which are stories of how someone feels better. When you discover the research says that 1 out of 2 people who get fusion surgery today with be disabled within 15 years, realize that that includes you should you decide to have fusion surgery. If there were a 1 out of 2 chance of getting run down by a truck if you cross the road, I bet you would be hard pressed to ever cross that road.
2. Improve relaxation skills.
There are dozens of ways to relax: everything from yoga, walking, tai chi to deep breathing, self-hypnosis, tapping, etc. If you need help with these things (most people do!), seek a trained therapist who specializes in this.
3. Connect with others.
The internet age has made connecting with others much easier. We feel encouraged when we realize that we are not alone in our journey. Connect with outside-the-box thinkers and positive people. For example, Scoliosis Warriors is a Facebook page that has been very helpful to many.
4. Formulate a reasonable plan.
At some point, handling scoliosis will require a plan. Professionals can give you ideas and guidelines, but no one can make a plan for you…YOU have to make the final decision, and ultimately it’s you who will live with the outcome. A couple of guidelines to help:
- Do the least invasive treatment first. Jumping into fusion surgery, for example, cuts off ALL possibility of being helped by an exercise-based program. Try the exercise program first. Surgery will always be available if needed later.
- If you decide on an exercise-based program, give it 100% effort. Otherwise, if results are poor, you won’t know if it doesn’t work for you or if you simply didn’t work for IT.
Scoliosis is scary. You are not alone. Defeat fear with a well-formulated plan based on the latest information, connection with supportive others, and stress-reduction skills that you practice daily. You will still have moments of misgiving and worry, but they will be less severe and further apart.
“Be brave. Remember that bravery is not the lack of fear but the ability to move forward in spite of fear.”
Helpful resources and links:
Do your own posture check at home with our “cheat sheet.” RHINO Scoliosis Posture Check