Crooked Wings still learn to fly
Embracing your brace
Embracing your brace means transforming frustration into enthusiasm. It means adjusting and learning to live with a new part of your life. It means confidence, in yourself and in your brace.
The largest obstacle in embracing your brace is keeping a healthy mentality. Don’t allow the frustration and irritation to take over. It’s your back, own it. Be confident and proud - the mental battle is the most important part.
Whether you are new to your brace for scoliosis, or whether you're struggling with certain wearing conditions, hopefully the tips and tricks below might assist.
Firstly, the perks
Some of the many perks of having a back brace:
Keeps you warm in Winter
Easy to drum on !
Protects your stomach like armor (just in case...)
You get AMAZING posture !
You get a little taller :-)
You can be a cute turtle (this one's obvious) :-)
You can be a man/woman of steel
You can doodle on it with dry erase markers !
Plunge down snowy hills on your new sled !
Although you are exceedingly aware of your brace, it’s surprising how many people around you are completely unaware of it. Nobody is staring at you because of it - they don’t even know it’s there.
The creation - everyone is different, so take your time
We are so lucky having an amazing team at our Orthotics Centre here in Wellington, New Zealand. When they create your brace, they are creating it just for YOU, and will keep going until you are totally comfortable and wear it like a second skin.
If anything is worrying you, let them know. From the tummy area being too tight (they can make a hole there), to enabling your booby area to have ample room for growth or whatever is worrying you. They have heard it mostly all before and can assist - you just need to talk to them constantly until you are comfortable and happy.
Something to note: You or your orthotist can drawn small marks with a permanent marker on your brace straps which indicate how tight your brace should be pulled.
Are you starting to feel sore after just a few hours in the brace? Do you cringe every time you pull the straps tighter? If this is you, we're glad to inform you that you are experiencing exactly what everyone feels within the first few months of wearing the brace. It's completely normal to feel a little achy in the beginning. In fact, it's expected.
Next time you feel pain, take a break and then put the brace back on later. You can always make-up 5 or 10 more brace minutes in the morning or before bed. Just don't give up. The aches will subside as soon as your body becomes accustomed to the brace.
However, don't hesitate to contact your orthotist if the pain continues. They can easily trim sharp edges and make the brace more comfortable for you.
Depending on the amount of hours your Othopedic has told you to aim for in a day (e.g., 23, 18, 16), it's easy to track it by simply using a planner or spreadsheet, be aware that it may take a few weeks to adjust to wearing your brace full time.
These spreadsheets are excellent because they provide you an exact record of how many hours you've hit each day. Recording your brace time will not only help you stay on track, but will also provide proof to your doctor that you wore your brace and hit the hours you needed. Lastly, it helps enormously with understanding that you can do this - it just takes time to get used to.
What to wear underneath
We recommend you to wear a body sock (or something similar) to put on underneath the brace. Body socks are made up of a tight, sock-like material and are very resourceful. However, if you find that you don't like the feel of it, tank tops are also preferable, although preferably without any seams.
Any seams, extra buttons, clips or other things will hurt against your brace.
Recommendations would be from the following links:
One in particular we use when needing a little more support (for growing girls) is this shapewear:
Wearing a brace is tough work and the body perspires more than normal, so wearing under garments is great for soaking up excess :-)
What to wear on top
When shopping, don’t let your mentality turn completely negative. You’ll start to reject every article of clothing without even trying it on. Be patient and try them anyways, you may be surprised with what you can wear.
We think it's alright if your brace shows, but if you want to conceal it, here are some ideas on what to wear:
You will need pants that are 1-2 sizes bigger in the waist. Once your body begins to adjust to the brace, you will be able to pull the waist tighter. This makes your waist smaller and your pants will then be too big - so it's all about adjusting until you become comfortable.
Since jeans are made of more compacted (non-stretchy) material, it's difficult to pull them over a braced waistband. This is where jeggings make great substitutes! They are lighter and easier to pull over the brace. Plus, they've got the same great style!
Like jeggings, leggings are also an option.
Having a brace is also an excellent excuse to go skirt shopping.
In the winter, it's always useful to keep a couple good sweaters in stock. A sweater's flowing and long material will easily cover up your brace. Just make sure when purchasing a knitted sweater, it doesn't have big holes. Large, spaced-out holes will expose your brace.
Steer away from see-through and light colored shirts (if you have a dark or vibrant colored brace), revealing armholes, and cropped or tight tops. It can be tempting to put on something light during summer - but it won't look as fashionable when combined with your back brace.
It's convenient to pick up a pair a slip-on-shoes when shopping for your wardrobe. As you can imagine (or many of you know :-), it's really hard to bend over to tie your shoes with the restriction of your brace. The good thing about slip-on-shoes is that they're quick, easy, and great for on the go.
If you were wondering, belted shirts are no problem. It's only accessories that go on underneath the brace that may cause pain.
Also these brace buddies can go underneath and over the top and have a cool look: https://www.bracebuddies.co
Night time can take some adjusting with your back brace, but with these nifty tricks you'll be snoozing in no time.
Falling asleep with a back brace really isn't as uncomfortable as it sounds but here are some tips:
Try lying on your back with pillows to prop you up. This is easier than lying on your side, which makes you have to balance. However if you prefer lying on your side, gather the fluffiest of your pillows and surround yourself with them.
You could also lie on your side cuddling up to a full length body pillow. Body pillows are long comfortable pillows that can be purchased from your local Warehouse.
Also, if you were planning on changing your bed anyway, you could think about purchasing a memory foam mattress. These are mattresses which sink once you lay on them, providing excellent support for your back, whilst giving your rigid brace all the comfort it needs.
If you find yourself tossing and turning often throughout the night, you might need to buy a duvet cover. Since duvet covers are thick, fluffy, and only one sheet, they are the perfect bedsheets for people with back braces. You can shift positions in bed and the cover will stay in place. They are also very easy to pull upward (without having to get out of bed to pull up two sheets).
Remember, these items aren't essential to have but they will definitely help you doze off more comfortable and in less time.
In addition, you could try a sleep aid for the first couple of weeks such as Tart Cherry Juice which has added melatonin - also incidentally been linked to helping with scoliosis.
Lastly, just in the beginning try loosening the brace just a little to make sleep easier. You'll find as you get used to it then this wont be necessary.
How to deal with school
Until you’re comfortable with it, it’s perfectly alright to not openly talk about your brace with peers or classmates. However, don’t forget that your brace doesn’t take away from you. It’s nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of.
The easiest way to bring about your brace in conversation is to casually reference it. Simply saying “I have abs of steel” or “try to punch me” is a surprisingly effective way in making light of the situation and explaining your brace to friends or anyone else.
But wondering how to tell your friends ?
No worries - just talk. If they are true friends, they'll listen.
Remember - don't overdramatise
Your friends reactions, will most likely relate to how you told them. If you dont make a big deal of it - they'll think the same.
Keep in mind - lots of kids wear teeth braces at this age. Describe your brace as just another option that keeps you straight - just not your teeth but your back.
For those of you aiming for 16 or 23 hours daily in the brace, you'll probably have to wear it at school. But don't worry, there are plenty of solutions to your questions. Especially for those of you in middle school and college. Many schools require for their students to dress out before and after physical activity.
Here are some solutions for brace wearers:
Talk to your school nurse and your gym class teacher. Ask if you can leave class 5 or 10 minutes earlier or arrive later so that you can put the brace on and off in the nurse's office/private bathroom. (S)he could also help you with it.
Take your brace on and off in the locker room with a friend's help.
Also inform your teachers of your condition:
Tell them what you cannot do (sitting cross-legged, bending over, etc.).
Ask a friend who sits by you in class to help you pick up dropped items i.e. pencils etc :-)
There are also a range of devices to help with sitting etc, take a look at our Tips & Tricks page.
OK - here's the weird stuff. Going to the loo can be problematic for some, also wiping properly can cause issues too.
We've found either taking off the brace completely if appropriate and you have the space is the best option, or loosening the bottom two straps for ease.
However, if you need to keep your brace due to space restrictions etc, try wiping from back to front between your legs, and keeping some moist toilet tissue in your bag is also a nice to have for freshness.
It can be extremely frustrating to not be able to scratch that itch under the brace. So, take off the brace and apply cornstarch or baby powder to your skin. Lather it in and then put the brace back on. Usually this treatment doesn't work right away in terms of keeping the itchiness away for good, so you'll have to continue apply the powder for a few days. Even though it doesn't work right away, you'll feel much better afterwards!