For most people, sometime around the age of 10 or 11, they visited their school nurse or had a checkup at the doctor where they were checked for scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.  Although rare, they may even remember someone needed to wear a rigid back brace to correct the problem. Unless you were that person, you may not know anything more than that about this disorder.

The truth is, doctors don’t really know that much about it either.  In some instances, the cause is known, such as in people with neuromuscular conditions and in others it begins as defect before birth but for most people with scoliosis, what causes it is a mystery so its treatment involves correcting the curvature from the point of diagnosis onward.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a neuromuscular condition in which there is a change in the spine’s alignment or a curvature.  It most often occurs in children between the ages of 10-14. The curve is often “C” or “S” shaped and can occur at different points on the spine.  Your doctor or chiropractor can perform more specific and accurate tests to determine whether or not your child suffers from scoliosis and what the extent of the curvature is.

Why is it most common in young teens?  That’s generally when growth spurts in puberty happen.  The child’s sex is a factor as well. Both males and females develop mild scoliosis at the same rates, but females are more likely to develop more serious forms of the disorder than males.  It also can run in families but often there is no family history of the disorder.

There are three types of scoliosis:

Neuromuscular or myopathic.  This type is developed by children with underlying neuromuscular disorders like muscular dystrophy of cerebral palsy.

Congenital.  This type begins as a defect in utero and affects 1 in 10,000 babies.

Idiopathic.  This type of scoliosis is the most common.  The word idiopathic means “of no known origin” which simply means that this type of scoliosis doesn’t fit into the other two categories.

What to Look For

Have your child stand with their back straight, eyes looking straight ahead.  Look at his or her:

Eyeline.  Is your child’s eye line level or tilted?

Shoulder level.  Is one shoulder higher than the other?

Hips.  Is one hip higher than the other?  Does your child lean to one side?

Head posture.  Does your child’s head seem to be pushed forward?  Does the ear line up with the shoulder when looking at her head from the side?

You could also do the Adam’s Forward Bend test:

Have your child bend over completely and see if the ribs stick out.  They may stick out more on the right side if your child has scoliosis.

What is the Treatment?

There is currently no cure for scoliosis. Generally, for a curve that is less than 25° observation will be recommended with little else for treatment.  A curve that is 25°-39° may require a customized back brace especially if your child is still growing, and although it’s not a cure, it may prevent it from getting worse.   They are most effective if worn all the time, both day and night. If the curvature is more than 40°, surgery may be recommended. If surgery is suggested, it may mean fusing several vertebrae together by using pieces of bones or bone-like material placed between the vertebrae and supported with rods, hooks, or wires until the bones have fused together.

Depending on its severity, scoliosis can cause immobility and chronic back pain.  When your spine curves, it changes your posture or the way you walk which causes pain.  It can have an impact on breathing, digestion, mobility, daily activities, and even your child’s psychological health, as their scoliosis may feel self-conscious about their appearance.  Severe scoliosis can cause heart and lung damage because it can cause the ribs to press against the lungs and heart.

At North County Pain Relief, we can diagnose the issue and help relieve pain.  While chiropractic care is not a cure for scoliosis, it can relieve that pain associated with it.  If you think you or your child may have scoliosis or suffer from back pain, call North County Pain Relief (314) 731-4201 for a consultation.