How to Manage the Emotional Effects of Your Child’s Scoliosis


The teenage years can be tumultuous under the best of circumstances, but when your child is dealing with scoliosis, the challenges become even harder. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) affects 1% to 4% of adolescents, with girls outpacing boys by eight times. What all of these preteens and teens have in common is an increased risk for mental and emotional health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

The team here at Texas Spine Consultants, including Michael Hennessy, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, Robert Viere, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD, can certainly do our part to help treat your child’s scoliosis, but we also feel it’s important to address the emotional side effects of this diagnosis.

In this month’s blog post, we want to offer some recommendations for addressing the emotional side of the scoliosis equation.

The link between AIS and mental and emotional health

How a child perceives their appearance is incredibly important during their adolescent years and there are alarmingly high levels of body dissatisfaction among all preteens and teens. Unfortunately, people with scoliosis are 45% more likely than their counterparts to feel ashamed of their bodies. 

This low self-esteem can quickly lead to more serious problems as studies show that there’s an association between AIS and mental health issues, such as:

To put some numbers to the problem, one study found that 32% of patients with AIS had clinically significant psychological and emotional distress. Unfortunately, this same study also found that, “66% of parents were unaware that their child has clinically significant emotional or behavioral problems.”

Tips for supporting a child with AIS

Being proactive when it comes to your child’s emotional and mental health is important when your child is dealing with scoliosis. The condition itself can cause unwanted physical changes in their body and the treatments, such as bracing or surgery, can greatly compound an already undesirable situation.

To help your child better navigate their scoliosis, we recommend the following:

Keep the lines of communication open

If you haven’t figured this out already, kids understand a lot more than we think. If we’ve diagnosed your child with AIS, it can be very beneficial to keep them in the loop when it comes to the condition and its treatments. This way your child feels more in control of the situation and can better explain to their peers.

Find groups

Receiving a scoliosis diagnosis can make your child feel alone and singled out. To help them see they’re not alone, we recommend you find support groups in which kids can talk to each other frankly. A great example of this is

Empowerment is important

If your child is limited by their scoliosis, they may not be able to participate in certain activities. While you’re managing your child’s scoliosis, it’s a good idea to find ways to empower your child by finding activities they can accomplish. For example, if your preteen girl had her heart set on being on the gymnastic team, but can’t participate, you can find a place with foam pits where they can tumble safely.

Get professional help from the start

It might also be beneficial to enlist the help of a therapist soon after your child’s diagnosis, so they have someone who can oversee their mental and emotional health. A therapist can recognize the early signs of mental distress and can take prompt action.

If you have more questions about handling the emotional side effects of your child’s scoliosis, please contact one of our Texas offices. We have convenient locations in Addison and Plano where you can schedule an appointment today.

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