Approximately one in 50, or 6 million people, have scoliosis in the U.S., 10 percent of those affected are children. Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during an adolescent growth spurt. According to the Scoliosis Association, the condition is the most common deformity of the spine but new research and development for screening and non-operative interventions are providing opportunities for safer and more effective early diagnosis and patient care.
Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but severe scoliosis can be disabling. An especially severe spinal curve can reduce the amount of space within the chest, making it difficult for the lungs to function properly.
In children and teens, scoliosis typically does not cause symptoms and is not obvious until the curve of the spine becomes moderate or severe. Understanding your diagnosis is the first step to being proactive about any medical condition as well as determining the best treatment for your family member.
Only 26 states mandate school scoliosis screenings. Early diagnosis is critical in order to keep the condition from progressing. It takes approximately 30 seconds to conduct a non-invasive scoliosis screening, which allows doctors to take preventative steps to avoid a future of pain for that child.
Own your scoliosis. Do something to stop progression. Get in shape and stay in shape. Being overweight and/or having poor musculature in the midsection can put a tremendous strain on the spine. If scoliosis already exists, being heavy and out of shape can accelerate progression of the curve. It's all about the "core" muscles, which support the torso. The stronger the core muscles, the less strain there is on the spine. Exercising won't correct a spinal curve, but a solid core is a great start on slowing its progress. A regular gym workout isn't necessary. Simple isometric exercises performed at home using a mat and exercise ball can strengthen the core very effectively.
If prescribed, get fitted for a brace and wear your brace as directed by your physician. Bracing remains the most common way to keep some curves from progressing. If your curve measures between about 25 and 40 degrees, your orthopedic doctor may prescribe one of several types of custom-fit back braces along with an exercise routine. These measures, if followed, can help cure your scoliosis without having to endure a surgical procedure.
There are several ways to treat scoliosis. Observation, exercise, bracing and surgery. Studies show that 90 percent of infantile scoliosis resolve or go away on their own. The optimal treatment depends on the degree or severity of the scoliosis. Examination and x-rays taken over a period of time will help show if the scoliosis is staying the same or getting worse. Curves 45 degrees or less are more likely to be treated conservatively with exercises or bracing. Curves that are changing quickly or greater than 45 degrees may require surgery.
If a school nurse, official or coach is concerned your child has scoliosis it is important to take that opportunity and have the potential problem checked with your child’s pediatrician. Anything over a 10 degree curvature is considered scoliotic and can increase at a rate of 20 percent over two months. Get ahead of the game and have your child tested by a professional.
The National Scoliosis Foundation wants parents, teachers, coaches and children to be aware of the following signs of scoliosis:
- Uneven shoulders
- One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other
- Uneven waist
- One hip higher than the other
As with any medical diagnosis, every patient is entitled to a second and even a third opinions. If surgery is the only option provided to you from one doctor perhaps another has a less invasive route that could be followed. Your best instincts are your guide when dealing with medical professionals. Find one you trust and follow their directives.
While exercise is important for back pain relief and those who suffer from spinal deformities, knowing when to stop is critical. For most with severe deformity, trying to exercise your way back to a straight spine is impossible. In fact, overdoing any one type of exercise for too many repetitions or too long a duration of time may result in further damage and pain. Keep exercise to an appropriate level where you feel better afterwards, not worse.
Raising awareness of this condition is important so parents know what signs to look for and what to ask their doctors. Early diagnosis is imperative to ensure your child gets treatment right away. Take your child to their pediatrician right away if any of the symptoms listed above are apparent.
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