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Scoliosis: What to look out for in my child

Physio&SoleClinic Physiotherapy October 14 2021

How to identify if my child has scoliosis? 

The most common form of scoliosis is Idiopathic Scoliosis. It is an abnormal curvature of the spine and has no known cause. The onset of this type of scoliosis is during childhood and adolescence, with the condition occurring more frequently in females. 

Some common misconceptions of scoliosis are that carrying heavy bags or being active in sports causes scoliosis. The cause of scoliosis is unknown, and likely many factors play a part including possible genetic links. Having poor posture or not drinking milk is also not a cause of scoliosis. The important thing is to know how to identify a scoliosis in your young child or teen. 

Mild curves may sometimes develop without the child or parent noticing. In the initial stages, scoliosis is pain free and most children will not complain of any pain or discomfort. There are, however, signs that a parent can look out for: 

  • Uneven shoulders: One shoulder can be lower 
  • Uneven chest or rib cage protrusion 
  • Asymmetrical waistline: One hip can look higher than the other
  • Curving of the body to one side 

Should these signs of scoliosis be noticed at home, a ‘forward bending’ test can be done. This is how a simplified forward bending test can be done at home: 

  • Ask your child to stand straight with feet shoulder width apart 
  • Ask him/her to keep their hands together and bend forward with the knees straight 
  • Observe your child’s back while your he/she is bent forward 
  • You may notice a ‘hump’ or an uneven back, where one side is higher than the other 

What to do if I suspect my child has scoliosis? 

It is best to see an orthopaedic specialist once you notice any signs of scoliosis in your child. Early diagnosis and timely treatment are very important to ensure that the scoliosis will not worsen rapidly as your child grows. Your doctor will do an assessment and may request for an x-ray to better visualize your child’s spine. Treatment will depend on the severity of the curve and the age of your child. Scoliosis tends to progress with periods of rapid growth. 

If your child’s curve is mild (under 25 degrees), physiotherapy scoliosis specific exercises (PSSE) conducted by a trained physiotherapist can help minimize curve progression. Early treatment is crucial to control the curve. 

At moderate angles (25 – 45 degrees), your doctor will prescribe a brace for your child. At these curve angles, PSSE techniques, such as Schroth therapy should also be initiated to complement bracing and to achieve best possible outcomes. 

In more severe curves (larger than 50 degrees), surgery may be indicated. Schroth exercises conducted by a specialized physiotherapist can also be done before and after scoliosis surgery to ensure good correction and safe return to activities.  

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