Scoliosis Part 1
7 July 2019
I have decided to write a short series of posts on scoliosis. This was prompted by a young girl who came into my office recently; she had developed a scoliosis and neither she nor her mother had realised it. This is not uncommon as scoliosis usually happens quickly. Her situation reminded me of the importance of regular screening.
So What Is ‘Scoliosis’?
Scoliosis simply means a lateral curve in the spine, so if you are looking at someone from behind their spine takes on an ‘S’ shape.
This can happen for two main reasons. If your pelvis isn’t level, then your spine will naturally compensate, and you will get an ‘S” shape. However, it goes away when you lie down. We call this a ‘functional’ scoliosis’. Physical therapists are addressing this kind of scoliosis all the time.
A structural scoliosis is different, this is where there is physical change in the spine that is there all the time. This can happen where a vertebra doesn’t form properly, or you have a vertebral fracture, but what this post is mainly about is a condition called ‘idiopathic scoliosis’. ‘Idiopathic’ simply means that we don’t know what causes it. It’s a spinal growth issue that happens in adolescence.
When the child is growing quickly, the spine suddenly veers off at an angle, and when it happens, it happens in a matter of months. Some parents get concerned that this has been caused by poor posture or carrying a heavy backpack. It is true that a functional scoliosis could be caused by these factors, but an idiopathic scoliosis isn’t mechanical in nature, it’s a growth problem.
Idiopathic scoliosis affects 2-3% of the population. It is 8 times more likely to affect girls than boys and in 30% there is a family history of it.
Early detection is really important as this problem is much easier to prevent than it is to fix. The best policy is for adolescents to be screened twice a year.
We run a “Back to School” growth check every January for all school age children, and we are now introducing a July Spinal Assessment for adolescents to screen specifically for scoliosis, but as always we do a full growth check. During this period of rapid growth, it is much easier to prevent mechanical and spinal problems from occurring than it is to correct then once they have grown in the body.
This is a FREE service throughout July for children aged 10-14.
In the next post, I am going to write specifically about the nature of idiopathic scoliosis and why early intervention is important, and in my my final post, I’ll discuss the best treatment options.
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