There are many things that dance does for a young person. It teaches grace, discipline, posture and presence. In the case of 13-year-old Sofia, it also taught her about scoliosis.
A dancer since the age of five, it was through ballet that the misalignment of Sofia’s hips was first noticed. Sofia’s dance teacher had recommended a core-strengthening Pilates class for dancers and athletes. The instructor immediately recognized the signs of scoliosis. A quick bend-over test seemed to confirm it and Sofia’s mom was told that a visit to a specialist was in order. But it wasn’t until a growth spurt six-months after Sofia’s diagnosis that bracing was recommended.
Sofia’s Mom said, “At first, Sofia’s Orthotist recommended the Boston brace. So we went to the web together and saw the Boston brace and the personal experiences of those who were wearing it. We talked about it and kept searching. I gave Sofia blogs to look at and she shared with me some things she found.”
Sofia and her Mom were also told that a night-time only brace could work for her particular diagnosis. But the more they researched, they found the nightwear brace wasn’t very popular and didn’t meet the Gold standard.
“We started looking at the fashion side of wearing a brace, what you have to wear and clothes that work with the brace. While researching, I did an image search and saw a reference for the 3D printing company making the UNYQ brace,” Mom added. “So, we started looking into it more and reached out to UNYQ directly. After that, my husband and I went to Sofia and left the decision to her whether she felt most comfortable with the Boston brace, the nightwear brace or UNYQ Align. She chose UNYQ.”
Said Sofia, “I think I chose UNYQ Align really because of what it looked like. It seemed cool and it was much thinner and easier to hide under my clothes. I also liked the fact that it had the holes built in. I loved the idea that it uses a 3D printer and was shown to be just as effective for treatment.”
Like any pre-teen facing daily brace wear, it was initially very hard for Sofia to accept having to wear a brace for 18 hours a day and feeling different than her peers. But once she realized that she would be a pioneer, her approach to the whole idea began to shift.
“At first, I resolved that I was not going to advertise that I was wearing a brace. I didn’t want to be in the spotlight. I decided to only tell my close friends. They thought it was pretty cool and were fine with it. However, the rest of my grade and teachers don’t know.
When I found out I would be the first in Southern California to wear it, I was so surprised! I was excited about being a pioneer wearing this type of brace,” she said.
Circumstance also changed how much Sofia opened up about wearing a brace. One time, she had to fix her brace in the middle of class so she had to tell the teacher. Sofia also had her parents get special approval for her to not get a bottom locker. Normally, students don’t have a say in that, but bending over with the brace is next to impossible, she says, and the approval made it a lot better to manage.
There have been other tips and learning moments, too.
Sofia added, “I guess the thing that bothered me a lot was how to breathe. I was having a hard time taking deep breaths, but I soon developed a new way to breathe. I didn’t expect or predict that. Another difficulty I faced was not being able to bend forward. I soon realized the best way was to go to the ground kneeling.”
Sofia has another year or more of brace wear and she is okay with that. While she looks forward to getting her brace off permanently, she says it’s not that bad. For her daily wear requirement, Sofia wears her UNYQ Align brace every day until 4:00 p.m. and then takes it off for ballet class and puts it back on later.
Sofia is graceful and disciplined about dance and her scoliosis treatment. Because for her, both have improved her posture – and her presence.