Scoliosis is obviously a physical condition of the spine. In most cases, it is assessed and treated in terms of its impact on the body, which makes perfect sense. However, scoliosis affects much more than just the body. It impacts emotions, mood and other human characteristics in significant ways. In fact, I would argue that treating scoliosis is as much of a mental and emotional endeavor as it is a physical one.
It is crucial for parents, patients and others to understand the significant emotional impact scoliosis can have. A positive mental attitude is perhaps the most powerful tool available for facing the emotional challenges of the condition. Patients who approach treatment — and life in general — with positive mindsets, are much more likely to find success in treating their scoliosis. Parents who stay positive are more present and better able to provide meaningful support to their adolescent children with scoliosis. And adults who have the condition also experience considerable benefits from a mental attitude characterized by positivity.
Of course, a scoliosis diagnosis can make it quite challenging to establish and maintain a positive mental attitude. Adolescents hear horror stories of their peers who must spend most of their waking lives in cumbersome braces that only provide a small chance of preventing further progression. And they are often told that they must become accustomed to a life of limitations because of their condition. Adults who have scoliosis may not face the specific social pressures that teens must contend with, but it is no less difficult for them to stay positive, especially when you consider that traditional treatment options offer very little hope in terms of actually reducing curvatures.
We know that one’s mental makeup affects treatment in significant ways. And we see the power of positivity every single day here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center. But how can patients, parents and others cultivate positivity in the first place?
A positive mental attitude is not just something that’s nice to have when facing a condition like scoliosis. It actually helps in specific, measurable ways.
According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking comes with a number of potential health benefits:
While it is unclear exactly why these health benefits arise from a practice of positive thinking, we know that a positive mental attitude tends to be accompanied by a healthier response to stress.
Stress can be incredibly harmful to the physical body. Although it is experienced primarily as a mental or emotional challenge, stress creates real tension in the body’s tissues. It also increases the production of cortisol, which is commonly known as the “stress hormone.” Cortisol, which has been described by Psychology Today as “Public Enemy No. 1,” interferes with learning and memory. It also decreases immune function, reduces bone density, leads to weight gain, heart disease and more. Cortisol also increases an individual’s risk of depression and contributes to lower life expectancy.
For the average person, this can make them more susceptible to a host of conditions. For a person with scoliosis, stress and its aftereffects can exacerbate the impacts of the condition and negatively impact a person’s ability to heal effectively. These effects are amplified in adolescents, who are already on emotional high alert.
A positive mental attitude is the best defense against stress. But cultivating an attitude of positivity in the midst of dealing with a life-changing condition like scoliosis can seem impossible. Fortunately, for many patients and parents, simply becoming aware of the benefits of a positive mental attitude is enough to encourage them to consider the ways in which they can transition to a sunnier, more optimistic worldview
It’s important to note that developing a positive mental attitude is not about avoiding negative feelings and emotions! Those are normal and expected. In fact, I would be alarmed if I ever encountered a completely cheerful patient. Staying positive does not mean glossing over negative emotions or pretending they don’t exist. Instead, it is about a deliberate, intentional choice to see the bright side of situations, even in the face of negative aspects of one’s condition.
An individual with a positive mental attitude doesn’t ignore setbacks or gloss over undesirable aspects of their condition. Rather, they mindfully acknowledge reality and consider the fullness of life. Yes, there are some negative aspects of dealing with scoliosis. But they do not dwell on them or allow them to spiral out of control, leading to greater stress and strain. Instead, they face them head on. Then, they make a deliberate choice to move ahead with a positive mental attitude.
Sugar coating the reality of scoliosis is not what being positive is about. Scoliosis is a big deal and can lead to invasive surgery if it is treated improperly. Therefore, the sooner a patient understands the reality of the condition, the better. Scoliosis may be a big deal, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be handled with positivity in the midst of realism.
Cultivating positivity is a practice. It does not happen overnight. Patients, parents and others must continually work at it. It’s about developing habits that become ingrained in a person’s day-to-day lifestyle. It takes time and a bit of effort, especially when it comes to restructuring well established negative thought patterns. But it’s something that definitely can be done.
Here are some of the best ways to develop a positive mental attitude in the face of scoliosis:
Although it may seem counterintuitive, the most effective way to transform an emotional landscape defined by negativity is to engage the body, physically. Exercise burns up the stress hormone cortisol and prevents it from manifesting in the many troubling ways I mentioned above. Physical activity also provides an outlet for the fight-or-flight response that so often accompanies stress. And of course, exercise impacts the body in a number of positive ways, which leads to improved self esteem, higher energy levels and a more positive response to treatments and therapies.
Scoliosis patients may be wary of participating in physical activities because they fear potential harmful impacts to their bodies. I understand this hesitation, but I encourage patients to participate in sports and other activities because they can actually strengthen the body and create better physical conditions for healing. Of course, everyone with scoliosis is different, so I recommend consulting with a doctor or scoliosis chiropractor before engaging in physical activity.
Scoliosis patients and the people who care for them experience a never-ending stream of thoughts and emotions that can vary wildly. Sometimes it can feel like too much, or that the emotional, mental rollercoaster is out of control. A mindfulness practice helps patients and others develop an awareness of their own thought patterns. When a person is aware of what’s happening in their mind, they gain the power to change things. This is the power of mindfulness.
A regular meditation practice can help with the development of mindfulness, but the process need not be formal. In fact, just paying attention more to the present moment, regardless of what might be happening, is one of the most effective ways to cultivate a mindful presence. Again, this is all about developing new habits, which is why the practice needs to be done regularly.
Scoliosis patients who are aware of the thoughts and emotions they experience are better able to create mental space for positivity. Parents and others who develop mindfulness are more present for their loved ones, and have a greater capacity to provide positive care.
Human beings are social animals. Regardless of whether a person is introverted or extroverted, spending time with other people is one of the surest ways to improve mood and heighten feelings of positivity. Isolation can be extremely harmful for people, particularly adolescents who may be feeling especially troubled by the effects of their condition in addition to the normal issues associated with teenage years.
The bonds people share with each other are powerful in the healing process, and they lead to a greater sense of positivity. Face-to-face time with others in real life is excellent medicine, but even interacting positively with others online or in other virtual spaces can have beneficial impacts.
Not all social settings are appropriate for developing a positive mental attitude, though. Parents and scoliosis patients should seek out groups of people who are positive, welcoming and supportive. Spending time with negative-minded individuals can do more harm than good, so it’s important to focus on the people who engage in interactions with warmth, love and hope. If a patient can find other individuals who have achieved success in treating scoliosis, those connections can be the most beneficial and meaningful.
This goes hand-in-hand with social activity. Laughter lightens the mood and can make almost any situation seem less troubling. Watching sitcoms and comedy movies can help, but the best laughs are those that come from social settings with loved ones. Laughter eases tension in the body and helps to minimize negative thought patterns. It is also connected to a reduction of the stress hormone cortisol.
To me, the absolute best way to cultivate a positive attitude — and maintain it — is to achieve results through treatment. All the other methods of cultivating a positive attitude pale in comparison. Positivity is hard to come by when results aren’t being achieved. However, when the correct treatment is applied and patients begin to see results, it has an incredible impact on the ability to stay positive.
I know this because I often see patients come into the clinic who have received — or are currently receiving — traditional treatment. Their moods and demeanors are almost uniformly negative, and their parents typically feel defeated, too, because treatments have not worked. Turning an attitude like this around can be difficult if someone has applied an honest effort, but it just did not work. Thankfully, I have seen on numerous occasions that once patients and parents engage actively with chiropractic-centered treatments and begin to see results, even the most negative people develop amazing levels of positivity and the motivation needed to continue.
Focusing on the physical aspects of scoliosis is the primary method of dealing with the condition, and it is possible these days to do some amazing things to help patients, physically. But I am always amazed by how much a positive mental attitude buoys and strengthens an individual’s ability to cope. Patients and loved ones who stay positive and optimistic experience the many joys that life has to offer without letting the reality of scoliosis let them down. They approach treatment with a demeanor that gives them a boost of confidence, which leads to a greater chance of improvement. And they inspire others who may be facing a life with scoliosis.
Yes, we are capable of helping patients reduce their abnormal spinal curvatures here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center. But without the positivity of our patients, our efforts would not be nearly as successful. A positive mental attitude is truly one of the best tools for helping patients find hope and healing. Thankfully, our methods of treatment help patients achieve the results that can fuel positivity.