How to help someone living with scoliosis: practical ways you can have a positive impact

Discover how you can be a supportive friend or family member to someone living with scoliosis with our practical tips.

From offering emotional support to attending medical appointments and helping out with daily tasks, this guide will empower you with the knowledge and tools to help your loved one navigate life with scoliosis.

Understanding scoliosis and its impact

Scoliosis is a condition characterised by an abnormally curved spine, often diagnosed during adolescence.

The most common type is idiopathic scoliosis, which has no known cause.

This condition can range from mild to severe, with severe cases potentially leading to physical discomfort, reduced mobility, and sometimes breathing difficulties.

Living with scoliosis can have a significant impact on an individual's physical and emotional well-being.

In addition to potentially experiencing typical scoliosis symptoms such as neck pain, back pain, muscle weakness, and fatigue, people living with this condition may also struggle with body image and self-esteem.

It's important for friends and family members who are looking for ways to support their loved one to understand the challenges associated with scoliosis.

This understanding will better help you provide the most helpful support to your loved one.

Let's take a look at some ways you might like to try and offer your support to someone living with scoliosis.

Practical ways to help someone living with scoliosis

It's important to remember that support will look different for everyone, depending on how severe their symptoms are, and how comfortable they are with accepting help.

It's important to keep that in mind when thinking about the following tips.

1. Listen and learn

Start by listening. Understand their specific experiences, challenges, and needs.

Everyone's journey with scoliosis is unique, and it's important to recognise the individual nuances of their challenges and needs.

By actively listening, you can gain insights into how scoliosis affects their daily life, both physically and emotionally.

This understanding is pivotal in providing support that is not only helpful, but also tailored to their specific situation.

Encourage open conversations, showing genuine interest and concern for how they are managing their condition.

Ask thoughtful questions that go beyond surface-level understanding, and pay close attention to their responses.

It can also help to do your own research into what scoliosis is and how it can impact daily life.

You can learn more about scoliosis in our blog: What is scoliosis? Everything you need to know about this spine condition.

2. Assist with daily tasks

Offer help with everyday activities that might be challenging or cause discomfort.

This could range from carrying heavy items to assisting with household chores.

You could also offer to help make modifications to their living space that might make everyday life more comfortable, such as adjusting the height of shelves.

Remember, the level of help needed can vary, some people might appreciate a hand with physically demanding tasks, while others may only occasionally need help.

It's important to strike a balance between offering assistance and encouraging independence.

Empower them to do as much as they can on their own while being ready to step in if they need.

3. Encourage physical activity

Gentle exercise can be beneficial for some people living with scoliosis, especially those with milder forms.

Encourage activities like walking, swimming, or specific exercises recommended by their healthcare provider as a part of their treatment plan.

However, always respect their limits and never push them to do more than they're comfortable with.

Regular physical activity and exercise can play a crucial role in managing scoliosis.

It helps improve muscle strength, flexibility, and overall well-being.

Encouraging and motivating your loved one to engage in safe and effective exercises, such as swimming, yoga, or Pilates, can have a positive impact on their physical health.

Be their workout buddy or cheerleader to make the experience more enjoyable and motivating.

4. Encourage them to seek professional support if needed

An important aspect of supporting someone living with scoliosis involves encouraging them to seek professional help when necessary, whether it's from medical professionals or specialised services like Disability Employment Services (DES).

It's essential to recognise the point at which professional advice and assistance could significantly benefit their condition and overall well-being.

Gently encourage them to consult with healthcare providers for medical guidance, particularly if they are experiencing increased discomfort or changes in their condition.

For things beyond medical care, such as employment and career support, organisations like APM Disability Employment Services can provide invaluable assistance.

These services are tailored to help individuals living with disability, including scoliosis, to find and maintain meaningful employment, offering support that is both practical and empowering.

By nudging them towards these resources, you are not only helping them manage their condition more effectively but also enabling them to access opportunities and support systems designed to improve their quality of life.

It’s about guiding them to the right resources while respecting their autonomy to make the final decisions.

5. Support during medical appointments

If your loved one is comfortable, you can offer to accompany them to doctor's appointments or physical therapy sessions.

Your presence not only provides moral support but can also help in creating a more comfortable and less stressful experience for them.

Navigating the healthcare system can sometimes be daunting, and having a supportive companion can make a world of difference.

This is especially true for appointments that might involve receiving new information or making important decisions about treatment options, such as undergoing scoliosis surgery.

You can help by being an additional set of ears, taking notes, or simply offering emotional support.

6. Be mindful of comfort

Being mindful of comfort is a key aspect of supporting someone with scoliosis, as it directly impacts their daily well-being.

Small, thoughtful adjustments in their living or working environment can significantly enhance their comfort and ease some back and neck pain.

This might involve considering ergonomic solutions such as chairs or desks designed to provide better spinal support, or even simple modifications like adding supportive cushions or adjusting the height of a workstation.

It's also important to be attentive to their specific needs in different settings – whether at home, in the office, or during travel.

For instance, in a car, adjusting the seat for optimal support or having a small pillow at hand can make a considerable difference on a long journey.

7. Offer emotional support

Sometimes, the most significant help you can give is simply being there to listen and offer emotional support.

Be a source of encouragement and understanding, recognising that living with scoliosis can sometimes be challenging emotionally as well as physically.

Be there to listen to them when the going gets tough, and be there to encourage them through their treatment plan.

8. Respect their independence

An essential aspect of supporting someone living with scoliosis is respecting their independence.

It's important to remember that everyone has their own capabilities and comfort levels, and it's crucial to acknowledge and honour these.

Offering assistance should never overshadow their ability to manage tasks on their own.

It's about finding a balance between being helpful and allowing them the space to do what they can independently.

Encourage them to express their needs and preferences openly, and be mindful not to impose help where it might not be needed or wanted.

Remember to embrace diversity in your support

Remember, every individual's experience with scoliosis is unique.

What works for one person might not be suitable for another.

The spectrum of scoliosis means that the level of support required can vary greatly.

It's essential to tailor your assistance to the individual's specific needs and respect their independence and boundaries.

Being a supportive friend, family member, or caregiver to someone living with scoliosis involves understanding the physical and emotional impact of the condition and providing practical assistance and encouragement.

By considering some of the tips above, you can have a positive impact on your loved one's experience with scoliosis.