Why is your child’s back misaligned?
One day you’re looking at your child from across the room and notice that their shoulders seem uneven despite the fact that they look to be standing straight. You walk over and tell them to stand straight while you check their shoulder height. Even though they do as you ask, their shoulders are still uneven. What is the cause of this? How can it be fixed?
Scoliosis is when there is a sideways curvature of your spine. It can occur in elderly individuals, especially women, which is thought to be the result of the loss of bone and muscle tone that occurs as part of the aging process. However, the most common occurrence of scoliosis is seen in children during the growth spurt that happens just before the onset of puberty. The exact reason for this is unknown. It does tend to run in families and impact girls more significantly than boys. Symptoms appear gradually and aren’t painful, so some of the time, the child and/or parents might not notice it, but a teacher or friends will. Symptoms include uneven shoulders when standing straight, one shoulder blade is more noticeable than the other, uneven waist or one hip is higher than the other. If the scoliosis is severe, it can cause the spine to rotate or twist resulting in the child’s ribs on side of the body to stick out further than the other. If severe scoliosis isn’t corrected, it can cause damage to the person’s heart and lungs and chronic back pain.
Most of the time, children that have mild scoliosis don’t require treatment. Once the child’s bones stop growing, the severity of scoliosis is less likely to increase. Children typically stop growing when there are no further changes in height, two years after menstruation starts for girls or when boys need to shave daily. In order to ensure that treatment isn’t required, your child’s doctor will want to monitor for any changes in the curvature of their spines as they continue to grow. In order to tell if your child has mild, moderate or severe scoliosis, their doctor will look at several factors besides whether or not they are still growing. The first is the size of the curve. Larger curves tend to worsen over time. The next thing the doctor will assess is the location of the curve. Those that appear in the center part of the spine is usually more serious than those in the upper or lower sections. The last thing the doctor will check is the pattern of the curve. If it is C-shaped, it’s less likely to get deteriorate than those that are S-shaped.
If the doctor finds that your child has moderate or severe scoliosis, they’ll recommend one of two treatment options. For moderate, this is usually a brace. The brace is most helpful if it’s used before the child’s bones stop growing. While it won’t stop or reverse the curve, it can prevent it from getting worse. Typically, the brace is made of plastic and contoured to the child’s body. This means it can be worn under clothes. In order to get the most benefit, the brace should be worn day and night unless the child is participating in activities, like sports, that make it difficult to wear. So, while participating in the activity, they can remove it, but should wear it the rest of the time. If your child has severe scoliosis, their doctor may recommend surgery to reduce the curve and prevent it from getting worse. The most common surgery is spinal fusion and it involves connect two or more of the bones of the spine (vertebrae) together. This means they can’t move separately like they usually do. In order to do this, pieces of bone or similar synthetic material are placed between the vertebrae and then metal roads, hooks, screws and wires are used to hold that part straight until the old and new bone material fuses together. If this needs to be done while the child is still growing, the rod that is used can be adjusted in length as they grow. The rod is attached to the top and bottom portions of the fused section and lengthened every 6 months. Physical therapy exercises won’t stop or reverse scoliosis, but improving overall wellbeing with exercise and healthy diet can help have better overall health. Obviously, this can be a challenging thing for children to deal with emotionally, so it’s important to provide them with support. Also, encourage them to talk to their friends so they have their support as well. Sometimes, it can be a good idea to join a support group because it allows you and them to connect with others who are going through similar situations.
While there isn’t a way to prevent scoliosis, you can stop it from becoming severe by catching it early. This means monitoring your child for any changes to their posture. Also, taking them for regular checkups at the doctor is a good way to see if there are any differences.
Scoliosis isn’t physically painful at first, but it definitely needs to be corrected in order to prevent it from becoming so. By being aware of any changes to your child’s body, you’ll be able to help them remain pain free. If you have any questions or concerns about scoliosis, please talk to your child’s doctor. If you would like further information, please visit American Association of Neurological Surgeons’ Scoliosis page at https://www.aans.org/patients/neurosurgical-conditions-and-treatments/scoliosis