In last week’s post, “Scoliosis and Gold Medals” I shared the story of Jamaican sprinter and gold medalist, Usain Bolt, and his struggles with Scoliosis. I’ve never seen Usain’s x-rays and I’m not familiar with the specifics of his spinal curvature, but he has been quoted as saying, “My spine was really curved bad,” and, “…it really hampered me because I got injured every year.” For anyone with Olympic aspirations, that’s not a good thing.
Scoliosis is, very simply, a curvature of the spine. When examined from the back, the spine in Scoliosis is curved sideways instead of a normal spine which should be straight. Google Scoliosis and you’ll see images of severely distorted spines and dramatic curves. In reality, often the curvatures are much more subtle and not outwardly evident. However, don’t be fooled, even mild curvatures can be devastating to a child’s future health, regardless of whether they choose to compete in the Olympics or not.
Contrary to what medical literature states (an 80/20 split between girls and boys), research studies have found that Scoliosis occurs equally between boys and girls, which makes Scoliosis awareness an important topic for every parent.
What are the effects of Scoliosis? Scoliosis can damage a child’s health in many ways. Posture can be affected. Back or leg pain may or may not be present (although such pain is typically regarded as “growing pains” and may not indicate Scoliosis, back pain is not normal and should not be ignored.). Clothing does not hang properly which can lead to a self-esteem problem for a child. Athletic ability can be compromised as well. In advanced cases, Scoliosis tends to place pressure on the heart and lungs. It can also lead to the development of an advanced arthritis in the areas of the spine under maximum stress. Ultimately, it is a situation best avoided.
How does it happen? The most common way this occurs is either in-utero positioning and/or birth trauma. No matter what kind of delivery (vaginal, forceps, vacuum extraction, or C-section), the gestation and birthing process can put a tremendous amount of stress on the baby’s spine and nervous system. This is even more common with a baby lying transverse (sideways) in the mother’s uterus as the baby’s spine is turned and twisted in order to fit. As the baby is born and grows, these spinal distortions start to create a habit in the body.
What are some commonly overlooked signs of Scoliosis? Spotting Scoliosis symptoms early is an important step in halting the progression of the curvature. But noticing the symptoms of Scoliosis in your child can be tricky. Some things to look for are:
- Head doesn’t appear to be centered vertically above the pelvis
- One hip appears higher or more prominent than the other
- One shoulder appears higher or more prominent than the other
- Waist is not horizontal
- Body leans to one side
- Ribs appear bulging or pronounced on one side
Given the fact that kids tend to slouch and may have poor postural habits, it may be easier to look for the effects of these symptoms, which include one sleeve or pant leg that hangs longer than the other, clothing that bunches on one side of the body or uneven wearing of the soles of the shoes.
What are the treatment strategies? The traditional medical approaches to Scoliosis range from a “wait and see” approach to more aggressive and invasive treatments, such as Scoliosis braces or even Scoliosis surgery. Bracing doesn’t correct the curvature; it simply seeks to stop or slow the progression. Braces are typically worn up to 23 hours a day and can look bulky under clothing, making children self-conscious. Surgery involves inserting two metal rods into the body and attaching them to the spine with screws and hooks in order to force the spine into a straight posture and fuse it there. It’s a complicated surgery with risks of serious complications and an extensive recovery period. Taking a “wait and see” approach can also be risky, as the longer the curvature if present, the more difficult it becomes to correct.
A much more effective and gentle treatment option is chiropractic. Chiropractic is not uncomfortable or inconvenient like braces, nor is it dangerous and difficult like surgery. It’s a safe, natural approach to healing that may be able to help with your child’s Scoliosis, as well as improve their health in other ways.
What do I do now? As a Doctor of Chiropractic, my viewpoint is that Scoliosis isn’t the main problem. In the care of children, a pediatric chiropractor’s main concern lies with the disturbance of normal nervous system function. Scoliosis is the result of long standing vertebral subluxation that the nervous system is attempting to adapt and handle. It’s this interference in body function that leads to future pain and symptoms.
For example, if the beginning of the curve occurs in the area of the spine where nerves control bladder function, it may be common for a child to have bed-wetting issues. The nerves that control the bladder are not working at 100%. It then becomes extremely important to correct, prevent and eliminate this from occurring, or from getting worse. I see subluxations as a major threat to a child’s health and well-being. It’s important for parents to know that these spinal changes can be stopped, and even reversed, with the proper care and treatment.
When was the last time you have your child checked by a pediatric chiropractor? It’s important for all children to be checked by a pediatric chiropractor as soon as possible to detect the presence of any curvatures and vertebral subluxations. I invite you to call our office at 701-893-3150 and schedule a spinal check-up for your child.