Many of my adult patients tell me in the first visit that they have a ‘curve in their spine’, or if they are lingo-savvy, a ‘scoliosis’. Often this is something they’ve been told briefly and don’t fully understand. At this point, the dialogue typically ensues that usually a scoliotic curve in an adult is nothing to worry about and doesn’t need to be monitored. However this is not the case with children and teenagers. A scoliotic curve in a child or teenager can change, sometimes extremely rapidly, over the course of months to years, potentially impacting performance, function, pain levels and health. Spinal scoliosis in children and teenagers do need to be monitored, and your chiropractor is the perfect person to do so.
Normal spines have curves – in the front-to-back direction. A scoliosis is a side-ways curvature in the structure of the spine and it isn’t normal. Sometimes a scoliosis is purely structural – owing to an extra bone or a part of an extra bone in the spine. Sometimes they are pathological – representing loss of bone. Other times, particularly with kids and teens, they develop without any apparent reason and are termed “idiopathic”. Although there is some great research and theories about what causes an idiopathic scoliosis, we have yet to arrive at definitive answers.
Despite this, we do know a few facts about idiopathic scoliosis:
- A scoliosis can form an S-shape if there are two areas of curvature adjacent to one another, or a C-shape if there is only one area of curve.
- Girls seem to be more affected than boys by scoliosis.
- A scoliosis in a girl is more likely to get progressively worse than one in a boy.
- Scoliosis tends to start in childhood and adolescence.
- Scoliosis is at the highest risk to become progressively worse during rapid growth spurts, such as those that occur during the summer or during puberty.
- Once skeletal maturity is reached, there is typically no further risk of a scoliosis becoming worse.
Spinal Health Check-Ups
One of the best ways to assess whether your child or teenager has a scoliosis, and whether that scoliosis warrants further action is to book a spinal health check-up for your child or teen up with your chiropractor. During such a visit, Dr. Alyssa will check for symmetry, levels and alignment. Both shoulders and hip bones should be about level side-to-side, and there should be no palpable sideways curve in the spine. Additionally, an orthopedic test called Adam’s Test will be performed, wherein the person bends forward as if to touch their toes – a scoliosis will be visibly revealed through asymmetry of the rib cage during this task.
If it is determined that your child or teen has a scoliosis, Dr. Alyssa will recommend x-rays, as this is the best way to reliably and accurately establish the degree of curvature and to assess whether it has an identifiable cause or is idiopathic. After this the course of action depends on the severity of the scoliosis. Severe curves require referral to an orthopedic surgeon, however, most curves are mild and require only periodic monitoring, especially during periods surrounding rapid growth. With the end of summer in sight, and the end of the annual summer season growth spurt, this is the perfect time to book a spinal health check-up with Dr. Alyssa for your child or teenager for a mini-assessment and some gentle and therapeutic adjustments.
Curious about your child’s spinal health? Help set them up for success this year by booking spinal health checkup with Dr Alyssa!