The truth is that I cannot speak for all patients who've experienced bracing. I can only speak of myself and share my experience with others. And because each of us has somewhat different experiences, that is why it is so important for us to share stories and information... because maybe our stories and experiences would be useful and insightful to others who are going through similar situations.
So lets talk about wearing braces to school.
This is Malaysia. It's hot, humid and sticky here. Tourists come here to parade around in sleeveless or shorts and bikini tops.
The last thing any girl (or boy) wants to do is wear a hard, thick plastic corset under those warm layers of school uniforms.
Our friend Twilight Princess (I hope you don't mind me quoting you here) mentioned that she wears the SpineCor brace. I Googled it and this is what I found.
Apparently SpineCor braces are dynamic braces which allow more flexibility in movements as compared to older braces made of hard plastics and metal.
But let's face it. The truth that we cannot deny is that no matter how "flexible" or "dynamic" braces are... braces are still braces.
Braces brace your body. They have a job to do. That job is to hold your spine in place, to ensure that your curves are managed and not worsen.
The following is a detailed photo of a SpineCor brace.
These photos are put here as illustrations to show what we have to put on our bodies. These braces made of synthetic materials which should be worn above cotton singlets or cotton t-shirts should ideally go underneath your day-to-day clothes because noone really wants to go around wearing braces over their day clothes. So that's how I wore it; I wore a cotton singlet under the braces to help absorb sweat and minimize abrasion on the skin, and over the braces I wore my normal clothes. So when I went to school, I wore my school baju kurung above the braces.
I'm sure seasoned braces-wearers know all this already ;)
Okay, so below here are some tips on wearing braces to school on a daily basis. Anyone out there who would like to add their own tips, please feel free to add to this content in the comment box. Thanks!
- Choose comfortable, absorbent camisoles/singlets or thin t-shirts (preferably ones that are body-fitting) to be worn underneath the braces. Loose singlets/t-shirts are less comfortable because the braces are made skin-tight (molded to your body) and if you wear a loose undergarment, they'll create folds under the tight braces and once you start sweating, the folds of the clothes could eventually cause discomfort and itchiness. So try to look for cotton singlets that cover all surfaces of your body which the braces covers. As shown in the pictures above, the girl is wearing a nice fitting t-shirt which covers all the parts of her body that the braces covers. If there are parts of your body which comes in direct contact with the braces, it can be quite uncomfortable because sweat could make skin in that area become red and itchy.
- Do have a soothing balm or lotion at hand. The braces could cause redness and itchiness on your skin, and you will feel this mainly when you take off the braces. I personally used a lot of aloe vera gel and vitamin E lotion. Sometimes I had rashes because of the heat and sweat, and I found that putting on medicated powder before you put on the braces, and then putting some aloe gel after you take off the braces (on the red areas created by the tightness of the braces) seemed to help ease the rash. Of course different stuff works for different people. In time you'll find what works best for you.
- Bear in mind that there are just some activities that are somewhat too uncomfortable for you to do with braces on and it's okay to admit this to the teachers. School is a hot and uncomfortable place most days for braces-wearers. This may seem like an unappealing or embarrassing idea, but letting your teachers know your condition can be very very helpful. Granted, as a teenager I did use the scoliosis excuse to get out of unpleasant activities such as playing netball under a 40 degree sun.. (hahaa) but the reality is some teachers can be supportive and helpful. And the ones who aren't should be ashamed of themselves! Hehh.. that's the reality of life, folks. For instance, when I was 13 and 14 years old, I was in the evening session. On Mondays we used to have "perhimpunan" in the courtyard, right there under the hot afternoon sun. Sometimes the heat just got too much for me and I had to ask to sit at the canteen, out of the sun. Yesss I will not deny that being singled out made me feel like a freak sometimes, but it was better to face the reality of the situation rather than making a scene of fainting right there in the middle of the perhimpunan! Right? So... do try to realise what you can and cannot do, and don't be ashamed to admit it.
- Try to arrange for an occasional "time-off" period for important sports activities and such, if necessary. For instance, for sports activities (what we used to call as PJ; Pendidikan Jasmani, or for extra-curricular activities), my mom used to allow some "time off" from wearing the braces. You could say those were the highlights of my days ;) For extra-curricular activities (house practice, sports society/club and such), I'd leave the braces at home, Dad would send me to school and fetch me afterwards, then I'd wear the braces again once I got home. PJ was another different matter though. It was tough convincing my parents to let me go to school the whole day without the braces, so after much sulking (on both parts) we reached a compromise. I joined the class for PJ in the fields every alternate week. One week I'd be allowed to go to school without braces on days that had PJ classes. Then the next week I would have to sit in the shades while I watched my friends play netball because it was too hot and uncomfortable for me to join any strenuous exercise activities with the uncomfortable Milwaukee and Boston braces on. Why is "time-off" an important option for you to consider? Because wearing braces should not mean that you must stop your favourite activities or put your life on halt. It's important to continue pursuing your hobbies, just remember to plan your schedule, and plan ahead.
And then there's of course the issue of your emotional state of mind when wearing the braces to school. But that's another story altogether, so we'll talk about that in another entry.
So do share your tips, people. Braces-wearing doesn't have to be a miserable, imprisoning ordeal if we manage it well, God willing! :)