Life as a College Student with Scoliosis by Olivia DiGerlamo
College is a huge transition point in your life, and figuring out how to manage your scoliosis has always been a fear of mine. Going into college, I was focused on so many things about my scoliosis: How would I do my exercise program at school? Would people ask me about my back? Would I be strong enough to advocate for myself on the dance team? And what about the school environment in general?
I started Scolio-pilates when I was ten, and I spent roughly 30 minutes to an hour every day in my Pilates room before moving to college. Transitioning from having all my equipment in a room to having a small room in a dorm shared with another person brought a lot of fear. The things that would go through my head were, What if my curve gets worse because I don’t have all my equipment with me, or what if I start developing pain because I am getting out of my routine? These challenges made me think a lot, and it came down to figuring out the most beneficial things I could bring with me. I packed my K wedge, wedges, bands, and a yoga mat. Before moving in, I planned and created a schedule of what exercises to do at certain times of the day. Mornings and nights would focus on stretching, and the afternoon was the best time for me to wedge myself and complete around five different exercises. I have always used the wall bars for stretching, but the pull-up bar became my best friend in the gym. It’s all about finding alternatives to the things you are used to. I also found that making a schedule held me accountable for ensuring I was doing my exercises every day.
My other main concern was how my back would handle being on a dorm mattress and sitting on uncomfortable furniture. Reaching out to the disability center was the key to addressing these things for me. They allowed me to bring my own mattress; if a chair were uncomfortable, they would provide a more comfortable one in the classroom. Therefore, ADVOCATING for yourself is so important. Without reaching out, you don’t know the help the school might provide. Dancing at a Division II college can sometimes be rigorous and demanding on your body, but taking the time before and after practice to get my body back to feeling great was essential. Also, communicating with my coach has been important because there are some things my body is unable to do because of my scoliosis. Generally, if you are open about it with your coaches, they are more open to helping you.
Getting questions about my back and having the confidence to wear outfits that show my back has taken me many years to get used to. I always wondered why someone might ask why my back looks different in certain outfits. People’s intentions are usually good, but it’s super personal for me, and sometimes I don’t feel like sharing. In college, I have learned that saying something as simple as, “I have a severe scoliosis, but I have been managing it for many years,” is what I typically say. People who are acquaintances don’t need to know your life story. Comparing yourself to others will just put your mind in a negative space, so having the confidence in knowing how your back looks in your outfit is how you were made helped me overcome not wanting to wear certain tank tops or dresses out with my friends.
I will be starting nursing school at the beginning of next year and I hope to help many kids with scoliosis in my future. Being so aware of my scoliosis inspires me to help others feel confident about themselves and to never let their scoliosis define them. I will continue to manage my scoliosis and continue to do Pilates every day because it is what keeps me going and feeling my best every day. Living life fully is what’s most important and spending time working on my scoliosis helps me do that.
Whether you are someone living with scoliosis or a professional helping those with scoliosis, join our Scolio-Pilates On Demand here. You will have two weeks of free scoliosis-specific exercises with a live class every Thursday at 3 pm ET (New York, USA) and access to over 100 classes. It’s time to take control. Be a Scolio-Mover!”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]