Parents, brace yourselves for childhood scoliosis

There is a growing concern among many parents, educators and health care professionals regarding a condition that is not even considered a disease. It is affecting nearly one million children in the United States and usually girls are hit twice as often than boys. It is developed during childhood and it’s hereditary. It usually occurs in those older than 10 years, but the condition can be already seen in infants. About three to five of 1,000 people are impaired buy this condition called Scoliosis.

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. In scoliosis, the spine curves to the side when viewed from the front, and each vertebra also twists on the next one in a corkscrew fashion. It is a common condition among children with a familial history of scoliosis or other abnormal bone growth development. In many cases, scoliosis is not diagnosed promptly resulting in progression into adolescence and, thus, a impaired physical development.

Scoliosis is a medical term taken from a Greek word meaning curvature. This disease often develops during childhood causing the spine to curve laterally (to the side) to the left or right. The spine’s normal curves occur at the cervical (neck), thoracic (chest), and lumbar regions (lower back). These natural curves position the head over the pelvis and work as shock absorbers to distribute mechanical stress during movement.

Scoliosis affects a small percentage of the population, approximately 2 percent. However, scoliosis runs in the family. If someone in a family has scoliosis, the likelihood of an incidence is approximately 20 percent.

In most cases 85% of the cause of scoliosis is unknown which doctors call idiopathic. The other 15% of cases fall into two groups:
· Nonstructural (functional): This type of scoliosis is a temporary condition when the spine is otherwise normal. The curvature occurs as the result of another problem. Examples include one leg being shorter than another from muscle spasms or from appendicitis.
· Structural: In this type of scoliosis, the spine is not normal. The curvature is caused by another disease process such as a birth defect, muscular dystrophy, metabolic diseases, connective tissue disorders, or Marfan syndrome.

Childhood scoliosis is often misdiagnosed by parents. Fortunately, some parents recognize a potential growth defect, such as scoliosis, during regular growth and development when the child’s right shoulder appears to be out of line with the rest of the body. This is oftentimes recognized by the parent when the child is dressing up for school, when clothes are noticeably not fit in a correct manner.

Many schools regularly conduct scoliosis screenings among students. Usually these screenings occur during the middle school years and it is confirmed initially by the school health care professional with recommendation for pediatric follow up. Through the examination process, the pelvis is examined to determine if scoliosis may be present.

When positively diagnosed, the next step is to determine the scoliosis treatment option most appropriate for the child. The traditional medical management of scoliosis is determined by the severity of the curvature, skeletal maturity, and likelihood of progression. The conventional options are initially through observation, followed by bracing and surgery, and these procedures usually cost a lot.

Surgical options for children with scoliosis are serious medical procedures, and this is a consideration parents will be required to make. Parents should discuss with their child’s pediatrician the treatment options needed. If the child’s activities of daily living are impaired and the curvature is greater than 50 degrees, surgery may be indicated immediately. However, if the scoliosis has not progressed, before considering surgical options, alternative treatments, such as bracing, may be considered.

Although there are many exercises that can help in reducing scoliosis-related problems, another alternative method is children yoga. There are evidences that the problem of uneven curves are improved through yoga and it is considered the best scoliosis exercise.

Parents should understand that the complex nature of scoliosis and the methods for early diagnosis will provide for a more effective treatment plan. In most scoliosis cases, when diagnosed early, the use of bracing may eliminate the need for surgery as your child matures.

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