Twelve-year-old Macy is a typical, active young teen. She plays soccer, enjoys swimming in the summertime, likes Math and Language Arts in school, loves her two rescue dogs — a Shih Tzu mix and a “big, fat” yellow lab — and she recently got braces on her teeth.
But her regularly-scheduled physical therapy sessions aren’t something every teen experiences. For Macy, it’s just a natural part of her overall scoliosis treatment plan.
“Physical therapy helps me focus and it trains muscles that I don’t use while wearing my brace. I also do a lot of running with soccer, obviously. It’s important to stay active,” she said.
Macy’s scoliosis journey began about two years ago when she was first diagnosed. At that time, her curvature wasn’t enough to require back bracing. A year later, it was obvious it was time for a more aggressive, preventative treatment. Bracing is preventative because it is all about inhibiting further curvature as the patient grows.
Her doctor recommended UNYQ Align™ so Macy looked it up online and thought it “looked cool.” She also started checking out stories and personal blogs of other teens who wear scoliosis braces. She particularly liked a story about an awareness program for girls just like her, living with scoliosis.
Like all new patients, Macy was anxious at first. Reading about and meeting other girls who have had or currently wear scoliosis braces really set her mind at ease. And she is happy her diagnosis was made early. She can already see the progress when she visits her doctor.
But while Macy had some idea of the ins and outs of brace wear, there were still some surprises and adjustments along the way.
“One of the biggest things I didn’t expect was the gap in the back. Your shirt gets wrinkled up back there and sometimes it [the brace] catches the shirt. You have to learn what you can wear. But I did get a whole new wardrobe because of that!”
That “looking on the bright side” approach is an important part of success with any bracing prescription. It helps wearers accept, meet wear-time goals, and more readily discover ways to make it easier on themselves.
“I was never ashamed of it, but I mostly just told people that needed to know. Dropping something is the worst part. Pencils are so low to the ground! So I have a friend who will pick it up for me.
Also, since my school doesn’t do lockers, we have backpacks which are a challenge. Everything was so heavy, I would fall over! So I arranged to have all my binders in my classes and just carry folders so I can handle what I take home,” she added.
Learning how to manage sometimes involves teaching others, too. Macy has found that some teachers forget. For example, her foreign language teacher had them practice with an exercise which involved continuously and quickly reaching under the desk for books and then placing them on the table. Up, down. Up, down. Up, down.
“It was so hard in the brace! My teacher forgot I had the brace on and I was scared to ask her for help. I just attempted it as best I could. But I was very sore the next day,” she said. “So when we had our regularly-scheduled meetings with all our teachers, I was able to remind them. They also gave me an “anytime” pass in case I need extra time on something due to the brace. So, I’ve adjusted and the teachers are learning, too.”
When asked for some straight-up advice she would give anyone else who is about to start bracing treatment, Macy said, “The first month is brutal. It is a lot to get adjusted to. The biggest thing is the fear you put on yourself. You worry about everything. At first, I couldn’t breathe and I was so scared! But I would say, don’t let that fear get to you, it does get better. You will get used to it!”
For Macy, the timing of getting her UNYQ Align brace coincided with getting braces to align her smile. And thus far, the plan is for both to come off about the same time.
And that will definitely make Macy smile – straight up.