Helping patients embrace their scoliosis brace

For some scoliosis patients, wearing a brace is crucial. Children with scoliosis not only have to adjust to bracing physically, but socially. A Baylor College of Medicine expert in bracing has transformed the way adolescents deal with wearing a brace.

Megan Glahn

Megan Glahn displays a scoliosis brace, a device that she helps patients cope with through her Scolios-us program.

While studying orthotics and prosthetics at Baylor, Megan Glahn’s interest in scoliosis piqued immensely. She discovered a calling to help children enduring bracing, which led her to create the organization Scolios-us, an online platform empowering scoliosis patients and providing them with helpful resources.

Glahn, instructor of orthotics and prosthetics in the School of Health Professions, grew up as a competitive gymnast and coached children ages 5 to 16 – the age population that scoliosis tends to target. Coming from this background and understanding what children of this age range experience normally, she felt a need to help.

“Wrapping these kids in a big piece of plastic and expecting them to live normally is asking a lot of these patients at a very vulnerable time in their lives. I did my own research and found there weren’t many resources available to help healthcare providers help their patients. I saw a big need for change,” Glahn said.

Scolios-us started as a blog offering resources to scoliosis patients and healthcare providers. The website consolidates different resources into one page so healthcare providers can offer resources for their patients. She created a video for her project in graduate school, which includes adolescents with braces for scoliosis, who Glahn calls “bracers,” discussing their experiences. The goal was to normalize bracing and to show other children they are not alone in their diagnosis.

The platform has transformed over the years, and Glahn credits bracers in the community with influencing new ideas for the organization. She started a bracing mentorship program within Scolios-us two years ago – it now includes 50 mentors and 50 mentees who have scoliosis. Mentors start at around the age of 12 and into adulthood, and mentees start as young as 5 years old. The mentor and mentee connect on a one-on-one basis and talk regularly via texting, calling or video chatting, where they encourage and empower bracing.

“It’s powerful when mentees hear it coming from someone who has experienced scoliosis and bracing themselves. On the mentor side, we often see these teens encounter bracing fatigue after they have been wearing a brace for a few years. It can become increasingly difficult to stay motivated when they enter middle school and high school and are faced with the societal pressures of the world. When they take on the role of being a mentor, they’re encouraging their mentee to wear their brace, which ends up helping to hold themselves accountable, as well. The benefits and relationships formed through this program have been incredibly rewarding to see,” Glahn said.

On top of her instructor role at Baylor and working in clinic, Glahn runs everything behind the scenes Scolios-us, from pairing mentors and mentees to creating social media posts. She has appointed six team leaders for the mentorship program. All mentors and mentees are placed on a team and team leaders connect with them every month.

“I’ve always been interested in scoliosis. It’s not only challenging from a patient population perspective, but also from a biomechanical perspective. Creating an effective brace is a challenge in itself, and that’s only half the battle because we then must motivate our patients to actually wear it as prescribed. This on top of the fact that most cases are idiopathic, or from an unknown cause, has intrigued me from the beginning,” Glahn said.

Glahn’s strong passion for helping the scoliosis community is only getting stronger. She looks forward to adding a mental health component in her research between patients and practitioners.

By Homa Shalchi