Summer is over, which means it’s time to go back to school. This can be just as scary as it is exciting when you have a back brace. I’ve had plenty of “first days” with my brace and have a few tips to make the school year a little easier.
One of my biggest worries when I first got my brace was clothes. I wanted to be comfortable and feel good in my clothes, but I didn’t want to wear anything that wouldn’t cover my brace well while I was at school. Loose-fitting shirts and blouses are some of the best ways to keep cool in the summer and still provide coverage. Thicker fabrics, like sweaters or sweatshirts, are also great at hiding your brace. Wearing a jacket or cardigan over tighter clothes is always a great option, too!
I always wore a shelf-bra cami underneath my brace. If you turn the cami inside-out, you can flip the shelf bra over the top of your brace for protection against rubbing and blisters. It’s super comfortable, and it gives you the flexibility to wear virtually anything you want over top.
When it comes to pants, straight-legged or mom jeans fit great over top of the brace. Pants with a drawstring work well, too. If you like skin-tight pants, there are just as many options! Leggings are super comfortable around the waist, and low-rise skinny jeans are great for keeping the belt loops out from underneath your brace, where they tend to rub and get uncomfortable as the day goes on. Cutting the belt loops off altogether can add another level of comfort as well.
If you wear shoes with laces, double-knot them before you go to school to make sure they won’t come untied.
2. Telling your Friends
Another important step is to tell your friends! Your friends might have questions, so it’s best to be prepared to explain what scoliosis is and why you wear a brace. I keep a picture of my brace on my phone and have a “script,” so I can easily explain these things to anyone who asks.
You can decide to tell everyone by making a post on social media or asking your teacher to address the class, or you can choose a quieter approach by only sharing with a small group of friends. Remember, your comfort is the most important thing. Simply saying “my back is crooked, so I wear a brace to keep it straight” is just as good as a full explanation. Whether you keep it quiet or go for an out-loud approach, always have a group of friends you know you can talk to about your experiences with scoliosis. Knowing you have support is an amazing feeling, whether school is in session or not.
3. Keeping Cool
Stay hydrated! This one might sound obvious, but it’s some advice I wish I took much sooner than I did. You’re going to sweat in your brace, especially during the summer months, so bring a water bottle to school and make sure you’re drinking plenty throughout the day. Wearing something beneath the brace, whether it’s a cami, brace sock, or something else, will keep the sweat from sitting on your skin and allows you to change into something fresh on particularly hot days.
4. P.E. Class
If you’re in middle or high school, chances are you’ll have to change for P.E. The first step is to contact your school nurse and P.E. teacher to let them know about your brace. When it comes time for class, you can choose to change in the nurse’s office or in the locker room. It might sound a little scary, but I promise, it’s not that bad. You’re there to get changed just like anyone else, and if your classmates ask questions about your brace, it’s only because they’re curious. If you’re still uncomfortable changing in the locker room, though, you can always change in private and join everyone else as soon as you’re done!
Once you’ve changed, be sure to store your brace somewhere safe. It’s not always safe to leave it on the floor or try to put it in your locker, so ask if you can keep your brace in your P.E. teacher’s office or in the nurse’s office during class.
5. Getting Around
Make sure you give your back a break. Keeping your backpack light, using standing desks when available, and even carrying around a cushion are great ways to stay comfortable while at school.
Last but not least, remember to have fun! Your brace won’t stop you from doing anything, so don’t be afraid to try out for sports teams, join the orchestra or the band, or stay after school for clubs. You’ve already tackled wearing a brace, so school is going to be a piece of cake. You’ve got this!