Screening for Scoliosis

By Rebecca Pillar

Our spine was designed to support our weight and help hold our body in place. Normally, when viewed from the back, the spine appears straight. A person with scoliosis, however, has an abnormal curvature of the spine. Most causes of scoliosis are unknown. What is known, is that scoliosis occurs far more times in girls than in boys. Children are routinely screened for scoliosis in school. Nurses and volunteers are looking for a variety of symptoms. Those include: -An obvious curve of the spine when bending over. -A head that is off center. -A hip or shoulder that appears higher than the other. Screenings occur at around the age of ten in schools. While it is not meant to replace the evaluation of a trained doctor, you can perform a simple screening for scoliosis in your own home. Have your child turn and face away from you. Take notice to their posture. When they say they are standing straight, take a look at their posture. Is their head centered on their body? Do their ribs, hips or shoulders appear uneven or higher than the other? A symptom of scoliosis is uneven shoulders, ribs and head. If you have any concerns after performing an in-home screening on your child, contact their pediatrician. Ask them next to tuck their chin as tight as they can to their chest. Have your child bend slightly to the left and the right. Take note of the shape of your child’s spine. Using your hands to feel the spine will also help you distinguish the shape. The spine should appear as a smooth arc when moving in both directions. If you have any concerns after performing an in-home screening on your child, contact their pediatrician. If you receive a notice from your child’s school that they are concerned with their results, you should make an appointment with their pediatrician. If your child’s doctor suspects scoliosis, he/she may order an x-ray and then a follow-up x-ray in several months to measure the curve and look for any change. The treatment for scoliosis depends on several factors. The degree of curvature and the amount of time the child has left to grow is taken into account. A child with mild curvature and several years of growing left may require no treatment. A severe curve could be treated with a back brace or surgery. Most cases of scoliosis require no treatment. Some doctors refer teens to chiropractors. Chiropractors specialize in the back and the spine. Therapy from a chiropractor could involve spinal manipulation or a referral for back bracing. Changes in diet and nutrition can also be beneficial. Another option your child’s doctor may give you, if they feel it necessary, is the treatment of physical therapy. While no research indicates that exercise will stop the progression of a curve, it may help with your child’s over all health and well being. Since it is unknown what exactly causes scoliosis, there is no way to prevent it. Scoliosis is not, however, caused from poor posture, slouching in chairs or sleeping on an unsupportive mattress. The diagnosis of scoliosis can be found not only during an early childhood screening, but be secondary to another condition. Another syndrome or disease could be causing scoliosis. Neuromuscular diseases such as Cerebral Palsy, Polio or Muscular dystrophy have been related to causing structural scoliosis. Injury, birth defects, connective tissue disorders, infections and tumors have also been known to cause scoliosis to develop. The prognosis for most cases of scoliosis is good. Close observation from your child’s doctor will probably be necessary to make sure the condition does not get worse. Since most cases of scoliosis are diagnosed in children around the age of ten, special considerations should be made. The body is already going through major changes around this time. If you find that scoliosis is affecting your child’s self esteem, try looking into scoliosis support groups in your area.