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news item News Tuesday, June 4, 2019 Tuesday, June 4, 2019 8:52 AM - Tuesday, June 4, 2019 8:52 AM

Summer is perfect time to screen children for signs of scoliosis

Summer is a perfect time to screen for scoliosis.

School routines are winding down and the leisurely days of summer are just ahead of us. While your kids are home for the summer, it is time to think about getting their spines checked for scoliosis. The temperatures are heating up and children and teens are wearing less layers now that winter clothes can be packed away. While not all symptoms can be detected visually, some signs of scoliosis can be recognized by the eye, making summertime the perfect time for an exam.

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis, a musculoskeletal disorder that causes an abnormal curvature of the spine or backbone (sometimes resembling an “S” or “C”), is the most common deformity of the spine, affecting an estimated six to nine million people in the United States. Certain conditions can cause scoliosis, including muscle diseases, birth defects or injuries, but the most common scoliosis is idiopathic, which means the cause is unknown. Scoliosis is most commonly diagnosed between 10-15 years of age during periods of rapid growth. Although three to five percent of adolescents may have the condition, not all will need care.

“Because most causes are unknown, early detection through routine screenings is key to providing the best possible outcome,” said Joshua Pahys, M.D., orthopaedic spine surgeon for Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia.

Signs of scoliosis

Scoliosis can be hereditary. It is recommended that a child who has a parent or sibling diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis receive regular checkups for early detection. Pediatric medical specialists recommend females be screened at least twice at ages 10 and 12, and males at age 13 or 14.

Children and teens with scoliosis rarely exhibit symptoms, and sometimes the condition is not obvious until the curvature of the spine becomes severe. Sometimes you may notice that your child’s clothes are not fitting correctly or that hems are not hanging evenly. In some cases, your child’s spine may appear crooked or their ribs may protrude.

Some indicators to watch for in a child who has scoliosis are:

  • One shoulder may appear higher than the other
  • One shoulder blade may stick out further than the other
  • One hip may appear higher or stick out more than the other
  • Their head is not properly centered over their body
  • When bending from the waist, the ribs on one side are higher
  • Their waistline may appear flat on one side

Confirming scoliosis

When confirming a diagnosis of scoliosis, a doctor will confer with you and your child while also reviewing your child’s medical history. A doctor will also conduct a full examination of your child’s back, chest, feet, legs, pelvis and skin; take an X-ray; measure curves; and locate the apex of the curve and identify the pattern of the curve.

Treatment of scoliosis

According to Pahys, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for scoliosis.

“Some cases will just need to be watched; others will need physical therapy, bracing or surgical procedures to stop the curve from progressing,” he said. “At Shriners Hospitals, we offer the whole spectrum of treatments under one roof, all working together to get the best possible outcome for each child. We also treat children regardless of the families’ ability to pay, so that often provides a huge relief to parents.”

Visit our web page for more information on scoliosis screenings, care and treatment, or find us on social media @ShrinersPhilly.