3 Ways Idiopathic Scoliosis Can Impact Adolescents

By Rosemary Marchese – Head of Education and Research, Physiotherapist 


Adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis are often going to experience many physical changes, however it’s the emotional challenges that can sometimes be forgotten. Remember, adolescents are not just ‘mini adults’ and therefore there needs to be a consideration of the fact that they are transitioning from childhood to adulthood. During childhood, they are more likely to accept direction from parents and medical professionals. During adolescence, they are finding their way toward a more independent life as they transition to adulthood, but they are not quite there yet and need guidance and support. 

So, beyond the physical changes, what challenges might health professionals or parents/carers face when supporting adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis?

1.  The Shock of the Diagnosis and Multiple Medical Appointments can be Stressful for Adolescents. 

Remember that the adolescent was likely not expecting the diagnosis. Therefore it’s important to remember that they may be feeling overwhelmed by the shock of the diagnosis, but this can also lead to many questions. These questions may or may not include: 

  • Will I be able to have a baby? (for females)
  • Can I play sports? 
  • Will I look different in my swimmers?

 2.  Adolescents May or May not Want Intense Parent Involvement in Rehabilitation Sessions. 

This is a tricky concept. If the adolescent requires a scoliosis specific exercise program, how important is parental involvement in such a program? Some adolescents may thrive with parental involvement but you will find that some adolescents will fight this and that can create angst in the family and even challenges in rehabilitation sessions. Think about every adolescent’s needs on a case-by-case basis when deciding on the level of parental involvement. 

 3.  Adolescents who Have a Supportive and Respectful Relationship with their Treating Health Professionals can Thrive!

Even though the diagnosis can be a moment, or multiple moments, of stress, with the help of a supportive network around the adolescent, we have seen so many adolescents thrive! There is more and more evidence now to support the conservative treatment options (scoliosis specific exercises and bracing) for adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis! Getting the right treatment at the right time for the adolescent can lead to some great results and the adolescent can lead a very normal and healthy life. There is no need to catastrophise the diagnosis. Work on building your rapport with these young people, remembering that they are not just ‘mini adults’ and require an individualised approach. 

If you have any queries or concerns about scoliosis, please contact us.

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