'Body image' is the name given to your perception of your own appearance. It is not necessarily linked to how others see you - someone may have a negative body image even if everyone else thinks they are very attractive.
A person's body image can be affected by many different factors, although it is often argued that the media plays a particularly large role. Magazines and TV shows have frequently been accused of promoting a single, idealised standard of beauty, and this can adversely impact a person's body image if they do not conform to that standard.
However, that's a discussion for another day. Today we'd like to specifically look at the impact that scoliosis
(a sideways curvature of the spine) can have on an individual's body image.
The visible effects of scoliosis
The symptoms of scoliosis are many and varied. Many of them are invisible; for instance, you probably wouldn't be able to tell whether a scoliosis patient was suffering from back pains, compromised breathing, or reduced flexibility just by looking at them.
However, if we're talking about the impact scoliosis has on a person's body image, it's not the invisible symptoms we're interested in - it's the visible effects of the condition. Scoliosis sufferers are often identifiable by the following traits:
- Visibly curved spine
- Leaning to one side
- Uneven shoulders, hips, legs, waist, and/or rib cage
These are the symptoms that can (and often do) negatively impact a scoliosis sufferer's self-image. Because these physical characteristics depart from society's definition of what a 'normal' body looks like, people with curved spines sometimes end up feeling ugly, unattractive, and/or awkward-looking.
Body image concerns amongst teenage scoliosis sufferers
Since idiopathic scoliosis
(the most common form of scoliosis by some distance) usually develops during adolescence, there are many, many teenagers who suffer from scoliosis. If you've been through puberty, you'll know that pre-teens and teenagers can be very sensitive about how they look - low body image is common even amongst teens without
curved spines, and so the psychological impact of scoliosis on adolescents should be a key concern for those who seek to treat this condition.
The problem is that most forms of scoliosis treatment focus on halting the progression of the curve itself. This is an indisputably crucial goal, but helping scoliosis sufferers to achieve a positive body image is very important as well, especially given the impact that a negative body image can have on an individual's mental health.
Boosting your body image
A little while ago, we conducted some research into our own ScolioGold
treatment programme and its effect on patient body image. A detailed summary of this research project can be found here
, but in case you're not able to read the full document right now, here are our key findings in brief:
- Patients reported a significant improvement in body image post-treatment.
- All age groups (juvenile, adolescent and adult) reported substantial improvements.
- These results suggest that intensive exercise-based programmes such as ScolioGold could be a very effective approach to treating certain psychological impacts of scoliosis.