Scoliosis refers to the development of an abnormal curve or twist in the spine, which can often happen during childhood or adolescence as the body grows. As many as 80% of scoliosis cases have no apparent cause, and are thus labeled as cases of “idiopathic” scoliosis. The remaining case of scoliosis have various causes such as injuries to the spine, birth defects, or neuromuscular medical conditions such as muscular dystrophy. Many parents are concerned that certain activities or habits will cause a child to develop scoliosis, but many of these are simply not related to the condition in any way. Popular ideas about what causes scoliosis in school age children include:
· Carrying a heavy book bag can cause scoliosis: this piece of false knowledge is one of the most common misconceptions about the causes and nature of scoliosis among parents of school-age children. While overloading backpacks can lead to back pain and problems with posture, it has not been linked to scoliosis by any reputable source.
· Lack of proper nutrition can cause scoliosis: once again, this rumored cause has not been accurately shown to have a bearing on scoliosis, although proper nutrition is an important factor in the development of children and adolescents.
· Sports can cause scoliosis: as stated before, some injuries to the spine can cause scoliosis, but this is a minority of scoliosis cases reported, and physical activity alone has not been shown to lead to the condition.
· Poor posture can lead to scoliosis: proper posture has many benefits, but prevention against scoliosis is simply not among them.
Detecting Scoliosis in Children
In most cases of scoliosis, there is no pain or discomfort at the early stages. In fact, with most cases it can be difficult for parents or the children themselves to detect any change because of the gradual nature of scoliosis.
In many cases, a teacher or coach may be the one to notice the condition. In fact, many schools in the United States have programs where children are screened for scoliosis around the times that they are most likely to start to be at risk. In addition to this, there are some giveaways that can help parents spot scoliosis early on:
· differences in the height and/or positions of the shoulder blades
· asymmetry of the angle/height of the hips or waist
· an asymmetrical distance between the hip and the arm when in a resting position
· asymmetrical shoulder height
· a hump in the back that is present when leaning forward
As stated before, many of these changes occur very gradually, and may be hard to detect, so frequent checks may be necessary. Most cases of scoliosis will not cause severe deformity or require surgery. There are a minority of cases which are categorized as severe, and have consequences that are highly noticeable or require surgical intervention, but those cases are just that: a minority.
If you have any further questions about scoliosis in school-age children, Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence is here to help. To meet with one of our orthopedic doctors, call (719) 623-1050, or request an appointment online.