What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis, a condition estimated to affect 2 to 3 percent of the population, is a side-to-side curvature of the spine that can look like an “S” or a “C.” Scoliosis occurs when the vertebrae in the spine form a curved line instead of being straight. The vertebrae can also twist like a corkscrew.
Scoliosis curves are measured in degrees:
- A mild curve is less than 20 degrees
- A moderate curve is between 25 and 40 degrees
- A severe curve is more than 50 degrees
Who should be screened?
Scoliosis can occur in people of all ages, but symptoms typically present in early adolescence, around age 10. While some cases of scoliosis present serious symptoms such as a protruding shoulder blade or an uneven rib cage visible when bending forward, scoliosis often goes undetected because of its painless onset.
Why is it important to be checked?
When detected early, treatment with a brace may prevent the progression of the curve and in turn prevent the need for surgery. Untreated cases of scoliosis may affect the function of other parts of the body, including the heart and the lungs.
Prevention and treatment
Schools play a vital role in early scoliosis detection and can help prevent permanent spinal deformity by offering a wide variety of screening programs. Alabama public schools offer free yearly scoliosis screening for students in the 5th through 9th grades (ages 11-14). Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, students must return a signed parent permission slip to be screened.
Screening is performed by observing the uncovered spine, viewing the student from the back, side and front with the student bending forward. If a spinal problem is suspected, the child will be rechecked at a second screening. Parents of students found to have signs of a possible spinal abnormality will be asked to see their own physicians for further evaluation. Girls and boys are screened separately for privacy.
While there is no cure for scoliosis, early detection and treatment can prevent deformities that may lead to back pain and impaired posture. Ensure that your child is screened for scoliosis by signing the permission slip provided to your child.