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Scoliosis

By Rachel Olis

A little bit of curvature in the spine is completely normal. In fact, this curvature is necessary for us to balance, move and walk. But how much curve is too much?

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature in the spine, often in the shape of a “C” or “S”. In these cases, there is too much curvature in the spine and may need treatment. Treatment options may include observation by a physician, wearing a back brace or surgery. Early detection is important in scoliosis patients, because when detected, early scoliosis can typically be treated with observation or a back brace. If left untreated, the spinal curve may become visible and cause pain or discomfort. At this point, the condition could begin to affect the lungs, heart and joints. In these advanced cases, spinal fusion surgery may be needed correct the problem. When treated properly, almost every child with scoliosis can have a healthy and active life.

Because early detection is so important, Alabama has implemented a law (Act No. 83-84) requiring public schools to examine students for the development of scoliosis. If there are positive results, a child is referred to a trained medical professional. These school screenings are meant to detect scoliosis at an age when the condition is mild and likely to go unnoticed.

“Early detection is key,” said Angela Doctor, R.N., Scoliosis Screening Coordinator at Children’s of Alabama. “Every child deserves an equal opportunity for early detection and treatment.”

While the cause of scoliosis is unknown, the condition can be hereditary and is much more likely to develop in girls. Signs of scoliosis normally appear between the ages of 10 and 14. Scoliosis happens gradually and does not usually cause pain, so it can be difficult to diagnose. So what should a parent do to make sure that their child’s spine is developing correctly?

 

  • Pay attention for signs of abnormal curvature. Some spinal curvature can be visible: the ribs are pushed out or one shoulder is noticeably higher than the other. 
  • Find out if your child’s school provides screenings and have your child participate. 
  • Have your child’s physician check for scoliosis during regular physical exams. Seeing a doctor is the most accurate way to diagnose. 

Usually, scoliosis is mild enough that it does not affect a child’s life and requires no medical treatment. Remember that early detection is important and have your children screened regularly.