Scoliosis is a physical condition, where spine curves abnormally either on to any side or it twists resembling letters C or S. It develops mostly in the area between the upper and lower back among the age group of 8-15 years, which is the school going stage. Mild curves are more common but sometimes may go unnoticed. But if left untreated, it worsens as a child grows. Mild curvature occurs in both girls and boys. But curve progression is 10 times more predominant among girls. However, recent advances in medicine have answers to treat scoliosis. When parents realise that their child has scoliosis, they may be emotionally upset and scared. They must dismiss these thoughts. Instead, the child is to be taken to the doctor.
The term Idiopathic Scoliosis refers to scoliosis without a known cause. In many cases, there is no pain. Although sometimes, the patient might experience lower back pain. There are instances, where this condition has affected families. Research shows that in some cases imbalances in the muscles around the vertebrae and certain biological factors contribute to scoliosis. Depending on the cause, the disease is categorised as;
- Congenital Scoliosis: In this case, the spine fails to deformities. It becomes evident as the spine begins to grow in teenagers. Close monitoring is very essential because the child may have kidney or bladder problems.
- Neuro-muscular Scoliosis: It causes the spinal discs and bones to break or deteriorate in adulthood.
- Osteoporosis: A patient losses bone density and the spine is a favored location for fracture.
- Nonstructural Scoliosis: Poor posture causes it. It includes patients having differences in leg length and who end up with muscle spasms.
Normally, scoliosis is painless. Symptoms for the mild curve and child spine may not appear upfront. Parents may notice abnormal posture as the child grows. The physical signs include a tilted head, protruding shoulder blade, one hip or shoulder higher than the other, uneven waistline, rounded shoulder or a sunken and asymmetrical chest shape. A child may discover the condition by himself when his clothes do not fit properly. After prolonged sitting or standing, he may find himself tired. Left untreated, it can cause additional problems that include back pain, limited range of motion, numbness in legs, permanent deformities, disk disease, tiredness, and breathing. In extreme cases of deformities, the lungs and heart of the affected may have injuries.
The spinal curvature, location of the curve and type of scoliosis helps to determine the risk of the disease. A device called scoliometer can estimate, the curvature of the spine. A series of spinal X-rays taken can determine the severity of this condition before the start of specific treatment. The Scoliosis Research Society defines scoliosis as a curvature of the spine measuring 10 degrees or greater on X-ray.
The treatment depends on the patient’s age, sex, type of scoliosis, spinal curvature and location of the curve. Mild curvature scoliosis requires no treatment other than continuous monitoring. Bracing is the recommended treatment. Surgery has to be conducted in cases of extreme deformities. The type of brace and amount of time spent in the brace may vary. To ensure curvature is not progressing, observation and repeated clinical examinations, every 4-6 months is suggested. Treatment and monitoring of this condition may be life-long for some patients. Physiotherapy can be used as part of the treatment.
** If you have any concerns related to your child and scoliosis, or if your child has not had a routine physical exam in the past years, I urge you to make an appointment with your doctor.