The Scoliosis Research Society has declared June to be Scoliosis Awareness Month, stressing that early detection is key to help sufferers avoid a lifetime of complications.
Recent scoliosis data
- affects 2%-3% of the American population (7 million people).
- is the most common spinal deformity in the country.
- affects people of all races, ages and socio-economic classes.
- is diagnosed equally among males and females, although females with scoliosis are 8 times more likely than males to have a curve that requires treatment.
- usually starts between the ages of 10-15.
- requires medical attention in ¼ of diagnosed children.
- has no identifiable cause in 85% of the cases.
Importance of scoliosis awareness
Catching the beginning of scoliosis in children and teenagers ensures the most options for treating the curvature and slowing or stopping the progression. Children's bones are not yet fully hardened, so non-surgical treatments like bracing are frequently employed . These interventions attempt to correct existing abnormalities, and in severe cases to delay the need for surgery until the child is older.
Most students are given the Adam’s Forward Bend Test routinely in school when they are in 5th and/or 6th grade to determine whether or not they may have scoliosis, but the Scoliosis Research Society warns many schools are stopping the screenings. As long as the child is regularly seeing a pediatrician, he or she will be screened.
The test involves the student bending forward with arms stretched downward toward the floor and knees straight, while being observed by a health care professional. This angle most clearly shows any asymmetry in the spine and/or trunk of the adolescent’s body. The health care professional is looking for abnormal appearance in the spine, hips and shoulders, specifically:
- A hump or uneven appearance in the rib cage
- Any lateral deviation in the spine (asymmetry)
- Shoulders at different heights
- One hip more prominent than the other
What should you do if you suspect you or your child has scoliosis?
Make an appointment to be evaluated by a physician. If a visual/external exam indicates an abnormal spinal curve, the doctor will probably order an X-ray or, if the patient is a child under the age of 11, an MRI to determine the degree of the curvature. A lateral spinal curve greater than 25-30 degrees is considered significant. A curve greater than 45 degrees is severe and requires aggressive treatment. Let untreated, severe scoliosis can lead to respiratory issues and restricted activity. Most cases of scoliosis are not painful, but certain types can be, if left untreated.
Want to learn more?
Read more about scoliosis, its causes and treatment options in the Spine-Health.com Scoliosis Health Center.
Scoliosis Research Society website. Accessed June 22, 2014.