Body Image and Scoliosis

Body image is not simply the perception of appearance. It is a multi-faceted construct that requires attention in scoliosis. Body image is defined as ‘a multidimensional psychological experience of embodiment that comprises evaluative thoughts, beliefs, feelings, behaviors’. It is strongly related to self esteem and quality of life. Adolescence is a period marked by important physical, cognitive and social changes. Add to this the stress of being diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) and it can become a minefield. 

Body Image as a Teenager

Body dissatisfaction starts to be relevant at 12-15 years of age. Stress related to body image is correlated significantly with peer pressure and school attendance. Disturbance in body image can have deep consequences such as:

  • depression
  • low self-esteem
  • being a key predictor of eating disorders. 

Body image stress can have important consequences while a positive body image can be a protective factor. The psychological aspects of dealing with AIS have to be recognised. Psychological interventions can alleviate stress and enhance positive body image in patients with AIS. 

The current SOSORT* guidelines state that the treating team for scoliosis should include a specialist, physiotherapist, orthotist and sometimes a psychologist. It is for this reason we have a Family Psychologist on our team. We have to remember we are treating a person, not a spine. A holistic approach is always important to manage AIS. 


*SOSORT – The International Society of Scoliosis Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Treatment

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