Surviving College With Scoliosis

I remember the first day of my college orientation, I walked 8 miles. Although I had a blast exploring the campus, my feet were crying by the time I settled in for bed at the dorms. But alas, there was no comfort here, as many of us know, dorm mattresses are about two inches thick.  Anyone would complain about that, much less if you have Scoliosis, like me.

Scoliosis a very common deformity of the spine where it curves like an “S” or a “C”. When a curve is more than 40*, typical treatment involves bracing during adolescence and then having spinal fusion surgery once the teen is about done growing. After surgery, most people have no sign of having had scoliosis besides the awesome scar down our backs!

However, that means this is an “invisible illness” where people can’t obviously see that your body is in pain. They assume you can do everything they can do. Invisible illnesses are important to shed light on because people tend to judge a book by its cover. I have been called out for parking in handicap spots, been told I am just lazy, I slouch too much, and that I’m being dramatic about the pain. As a society, we have to stop the judgement!

Invisible illnesses are important to shed light on because people tend to judge a book by its cover.

I have Idiopathic Scoliosis, which means there is no known cause of why I have it. I just have it! I went through it all; the back brace, multiple spinal fusions, sections of my ribs removed to correct my back hump (ouch!), and frequently being in an out of the hospital. I knew college was going to be a challenge for me physically, amongst all of the other changes and stressors.

Since I am now graduated, I have learned how to navigate the battlefield of college so you don’t have to! Here are my best tips and tricks on how to survive college with scoliosis!

Clothing

Comfort always comes first when you get dressed in the morning. It all comes down to wearing comfy shoes and bringing a sweater. Comfortable shoes are essential because everything in the body is connected. If your feet start hurting, your knees will start hurting, then your hips, and then your back! I have these cute Sketchers that look like knock off Yeezys, but they are also memory foam! I get the best of both worlds with style and comfort. I also get compliments all the time, obviously.

The reason I recommend taking a sweater with you to class is because lecture halls and classrooms are usually frigid! I find my fusion to be sensitive to hot and cold. When I get too cold, my spine starts to ache, and it distracts me from learning. That and my cell phone.

Speaking of cell phones, don’t crane your neck by looking down at your phone. Especially, while wearing a backpack. This pulls the neck and head down, straining it even more. Keep your backpack light by leaving textbooks at home. Just bring the essentials! If you are required to have a textbook in class, talk to the professor about your limitations on carrying weight and ask if you can share with a friend. Another good option is having a digital version of the textbook on an iPad, cell phone, or something not bulky. Again, just let the professor know that you are looking at the textbook, not the ‘gram.

Dorms

Your dorm should be a place of tranquility at the end of your day! Throw a foam mattress topper on your bed to cushion your back. If you find yourself needing more support, add a gel mattress topper under the foam topper. Get yourself an extra deep fitted sheet to hold it all together and you will sleep like a baby!

Don’t study in your bed if you can help it. Not only does this train your brain to be alert, not sleepy, when you are in your bed, but it also promotes poor posture and will aggravate your pain. Take the studying to the library, your desk, or invest in a giant bean bag chair!

Clubs and Activities

In college, you will have a lot of opportunities to join clubs and organizations. A good amount of these will be sports, which I don’t recommend doing anything high impact. I played Women’s Ultimate Frisbee for 2 years and loved it because we got to travel every other weekend! Unfortunately, I had to stop playing after the metal in my spin BROKE. So, don’t do what I did, instead, pick a low impact sport like swim team, fencing, or table tennis! They travel too!  

Personally, I found the most fun when I joined my sorority, AOII! Most of the activities we did were perfect for my back because we had themed crafting and game nights often! That’s low impact, relaxing, and bonding! Hello, self-care!

I also found out two of my “sisters” have scoliosis and spinal fusion. It was wonderful to meet people with so many commonalities. With that, we also discussed how there were not many support groups for women with scoliosis. Usually, support groups are for adolescent girls in braces or for those who are about to have surgery. But, what about after all of that? The problems don’t disappear.

So, I thought about this for months before I finally started my own blog to help spread awareness of invisible illnesses, like scoliosis. I also have tons of pain management advice posted every week on “Fusion Friday”.  I felt the importance of starting a Facebook support group for young women to globally find friends who understand what they are going through. You can find all the links below! I hope this helps.

XOXO,
Tay


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Taylor Wells

Taylor graduated in May 2019 from the University of Texas at San Antonio majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies. Now, she runs a Lifestyle Blog centered around how to be a BOSS BABE even while dealing with Scoliosis, Spinal Fusion, and Chronic Pain! Help SUPPORT THIS CAUSE to spread awareness and support for the scoliosis community by following along with this journey and sharing with your friends!

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15 Comments
  • Stacie
    May 28, 2019

    This is going to help so many people! Scoliosis is one of those illnesses that makes every simple thing in the world so much harder. I have a friend who has it, and it’s a tough thing.

    • Taylor
      May 28, 2019

      Thank you, Stacie! That means a lot ❤ That makes me so happy that your friend with scoliosis has someone who is supportive and understands!

  • GiGi Eats
    May 28, 2019

    I can imagine this NOT being fun – especially when you have to walk far distances with a heavy backpack on!! People don’t take scoliosis very seriously anymore! I remember it being a thing in grade school but after that, it just isn’t paid attention to, which is a mistake.

    • Taylor
      May 29, 2019

      Totally! It is very serious and common, so I think it’s really wild that schools don’t talk about it after elementary school!

  • Emman Damian
    May 28, 2019

    Scoliosis is a very serious condition. My friend had it before. With right therapy and patience, it will be ok.

  • Tiffany La Forge-Grau
    May 28, 2019

    Wow, that couldn’t have been easy. 8 miles?!?! That’s tough on someone without struggles! That’s amazing.

  • Wow….I am so happy for you, Tay, honey. Invisible diseases are so hard to “see” and they are rarely talked about.

  • Mavs Escala
    May 30, 2019

    I have a friend who has scoliosis and I know how hard it is.

  • Lavern Moore
    May 30, 2019

    If you set your mind to something, you can get around any obstacle! Glad you have succeeded!

  • elizabeth o
    May 30, 2019

    This was very informative and the personal touch makes a difference too. One of my best friend’s kid has scoliosis and so I can relate to a lot of what you wrote here.

    • Taylor
      June 5, 2019

      Thank you, love!

  • Heather
    May 30, 2019

    Thanks for this post. This is something hard to live with but so glad that you are doing great in life! Keep doing awesome things!!

    • Taylor
      June 5, 2019

      Thank you, Heather! I appreciate your kind words!

  • Becca Wilson
    May 30, 2019

    This is something that my parents believed that I made have had when I was younger. Although I do have a slight “S” curve, it is not enough for this diagnosis. There is some awesome info here for people that do have it!

  • blair villanueva
    June 3, 2019

    This is very helpful. I know a few colleagues who have it now that they are working in the office.

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