Remember getting checked for scoliosis in elementary school? Did you ever realize how important it was getting that exam? June is scoliosis awareness month and we asked Dr. Shelly Roque a SIMED Primary Care Family medicine and sports medicine physician questions that were never answered in elementary school. For example:
What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a sideways curve in the spine where the spine sometimes looks like the letter “S” or “C”. It is commonly seen in children and adolescents. Most cases are idiopathic, meaning we don’t know why it occurred. Some cases are congenital, which means you are born with a predisposition for the condition, and other cases can be due to conditions that affect the nerves and muscles, such as, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury. About 30% of adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis have other family members that have scoliosis as well.
What are some common symptoms and/or signs?
Most cases don’t have any symptoms and it is very rare that is causes serious problems. However, if the curve gets very large, it could possibly lead to back, pelvis, or leg pain. Heart and lung problems can also develop due to the curvations effect on the internal organs In very rare, severe cases, scoliosis can lead to compression of the nerves or the spinal cord causing paralysis.
How do you test for scoliosis?
Scoliosis is usually screened for during regular check-ups with the family physician or pediatrician, before the pubertal growth spurt (at about 10-15 years of age).
Tests to check for scoliosis include:
- Forward bend test - an examiner checks to see if one side of the back is higher than the other
- X-ray - Is indicated if the physical exam demonstrates significant curvature;or , if there is a need to monitor the degree of curvature in a person previously diagnosed. The images show the curvature and measurements more precisely.
How is scoliosis treated?
Mild scoliosis needs regular observation, but does not need treatment; however, moderate to severe scoliosis may need treatment. In general, the following treatment options are considered:
- No treatment is needed if the child has mild scoliosis and is finished growing.
- When the scoliosis is not severe and the child is not finished growing, expectant management is done, which means you can watch over time for changes,
- Bracing may be needed if the child has a moderate sized curve, and still has a lot of growing to do.
- Since severe scoliosis usually gets worse with time, surgery can be considered.
Depending on the situation, the patient and doctor may decide to do surgery to help the vertebrae of the spine line up correctly. Surgery is considered for severe scoliosis. The goal of surgery is to help the vertebrae align in more appropriate position.
Is there currently research being done for scoliosis?
Almost all aspects of scoliosis are being researchers there is research investigating how genetics play a roll on who develops scoliosis. Research on bracing devices, techniques, durations; and research on surgical devices and techniques to better align the spine.
For more information you can visit the following websites:
Or request an appointment with Dr. Roque through SIMED’s online appointment request.