As a parent, one of your most important goals is to help your child have the best health possible. Early screening for scoliosis can assist you in achieving your goal.
Scoliosis is an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine of 10 degrees or more, causing a C-shaped or S-shaped curve, that affects approximately 3% of the population. The majority of those who have scoliosis begin to develop the condition early in adolescence with the onset often corresponding with pubertal growth spurts. Male and female gender differences should be taken into account since girls (age 10–14) begin this growth spurt and achieve skeletal maturity at a younger age than boys (age 12–16), therefore it can affect them sooner and is also more common in girls. Screening during these years is important when looking for and controlling spinal deformities. In rare cases, infants may show signs of spine curvature due to improper formation of the spine in the womb.
Early screening for scoliosis by a trained professional is important as scoliosis can go unnoticed in young people because it’s rarely painful in the early stages and, as with most health issues, the sooner it is caught, the more likely and easier it may be to fix. Fortunately, if caught before they become too severe, most curvatures of the spine can be treated without surgery.
Types of Scoliosis
Scoliosis can be broken into two main classifications: structural and functional. Structural scoliosis is considered fixed. This means the spinal twisting cannot be changed, though muscle tone around the area can be improved and possibly reduce progression. Functional scoliosis is more treatable and can often be completely reversed if caught early on. With this type, the changes in shape or structure are not permanent and are a secondary issue caused by another underlying condition.
Here are four of the most common curvature types:
- Right thoracic, which is the most common idiopathic form with the familiar right-sided rib hump.
- Left lumbar is the next most common.
- Left thoracolumbar involves the area of the spine where the thoracic and lumbar meet.
- Right thoracic left lumbar causes what is known as the double major curve. This can make it difficult to detect since they balance out the posture.
Other notable spinal deformities are these:
- Hyper-kyphosis, which is defined as an excessive increase in the normal thoracic curve called the kyphosis curve and often referred to as round-back or hunch-back. Chiropractic treatment, bracing, and posture retraining are generally used.
- Scheuermann’s kyphosis falls under structural, and the vertebra are wedged. Bracing and surgery are usually recommended.
Scoliosis Causes and Factors
The majority of all scoliosis cases are idiopathic. This means the cause is unknown. With the rest, scoliosis tends to be a secondary problem. The primary causes of spinal curvature generally fall under one of the following categories:
- Structural (Bone) such as hemivertebra, sacral bone deformity, and leg length discrepancy
- Neuropathic (Nerve) such as spinal cord trauma, tumors, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s
- Myopathies (Muscle) such as myotonia, muscular dystrophy, and low muscle tone reducing support to the spinal column
- Hyper-kyphosis often accompanying neuromuscular deformities, making them worse
Common factors can cause or increase the chances of developing scoliosis:
- Growth spurts in puberty
- Lack of room to grow in the womb
- Improperly carried weight, especially on one side, such as backpacks and large purses
- Poor posture habits
- Activities that regularly put stress on the skeletal frame and vertebra like dancing and gymnastics
- Loss of bone density, osteoporosis
- Heredity – A family member with scoliosis increases your chances 30%!
- Low percentage of body fat or late-onset or abnormal menstruation
- Being female (increased risk)
Observation, Screening, and Diagnosis
Since identifying scoliosis promptly is a key factor in successful treatment, early observations and screenings are a critical part of the process leading to a diagnosis and should begin by the time a child begins puberty.
Parents are in the best position to be observers. With activities like dancing, gymnastics, and other sports being a strong factor, instructors and coaches of those activities should also be aware of the signs to look for like uneven shoulders or hips, poor posture, as well as any abnormal curving of the spine. If an abnormality is suspected, the next step is to have them screened by a professional to determine if everything is within normal parameters or if they should be referred to a specialist for a diagnosis. Once an official diagnosis has been made, a treatment plan can be developed to address the problem.
Curvatures left untreated can lead to more problems. Some can be difficult or impossible to treat.
Early screening is key. If left untreated, severe spinal curvatures can cause physical deformity, arthritis, heart and lung problems, and other chronic health issues. No parent wants that for their child. Severe cases can only be alleviated by spinal surgery performed by an orthopedic surgeon, but the outcomes are often poor. However, when detected early with the help of proper screening, scoliosis can be successfully treated. A skilled chiropractor can often reverse the effects of scoliosis.
Treatment and Management of Scoliosis
Standard treatments for scoliosis include the following:
Observation – Some doctors just want to observe mild curvatures over time. This isn’t a very good option for parents and doctors wanting to take early action to avoid surgery.
Braces – There are two types of braces. A rigid plastic TLSO, and an elastic tension system. The rigid brace can prevent a problem from getting worse. It cannot reverse any curvature that has already formed. The elastic brace is much easier to use, can help reverse curvature, and can be used earlier. Braces may be recommended for children and teenagers who are still growing. For children without braces, doctors recommend repeat checkups every six months to monitor curvatures until children have come through their growth period.
Surgery – The most common procedure involves spinal fusion using rods, screws, and bone grafts. This is the most invasive treatment and is generally not done unless the curvature is more severe or the patient is older. Older patients may be more likely to undergo surgery, especially if the curve exceeds 24 degrees (measured on x-ray film). LINK – for digital Xrays on our website.
Alternative Treatments for scoliosis include these:
- Respiratory exercises
- Vestibular Rehabilitation
- Rotational exercises
- Posture Retraining
- Yoga – Care should be taken. Some positions could worsen the curvature.
- Physical Therapy
In addition to a number of chiropractic techniques helpful in the treatment of scoliosis, many of the alternative treatments listed can be managed by a Doctor of Chiropractic. Exercises can help with realignment of the spine, specifically Schroth exercises along with chiropractic corrective spinal realignment adjustments.
Chiropractic adjustment is the safest treatment available and can be highly effective. Because there are 24 moving bones in the spine and seven ways they each can move, it takes a qualified professional to design a treatment plan. At Synergy Wellness, every patient’s care is custom designed just for them.
We use a mixture of chiropractic corrective spinal adjustments multiple times a week slowly reducing over time as the spine starts to straighten in conjunction with Schroth and other exercises to increase the likelihood of complete resolution of symptoms and the curve itself.
Insurance does not typically cover what it takes to correct the scoliosis curve. It only covers relief of your symptoms. We typically see a reduction in symptoms within 4–8 weeks. Depending on the complexity and severity of the scoliosis, it can take anywhere from six months to two years in a severe case to correct. Some cases cannot be corrected due to deformity from birth or certain neurological conditions. We offer discount plans as well as packages and have more info on our website.
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If you would like more information, visit the website for the Scoliosis Care Foundation or schedule an exam. Wishing you and your family good health and happiness!