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Saturday, March 25, 2023
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Bend over Backwards for Scoliosis

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month. Many of us have heard of scoliosis, but may not fully understand the term. “Scoliosis is a descriptive term, rather than a specific diagnosis,” said Dr. Christopher R. Good of the Virginia Spine Institute in a video statement. It’s an abnormal sideways curvature causing deformities of the spinal column and rib cage. Scoliotic spines appear as “C” or “S” shaped as opposed to a fairly straight line, and scoliosis affects about 2%-3% of the population, or approximately 7 million people in the U.S. While the condition can affect infants and adults, most scoliosis patients are diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 15, and the majority are girls. The most common type of scoliosis is idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown.

There are three main treatment options for scoliosis: observation, non-operative treatment, and surgical treatment. Observation involves regular review by a physician, and tends to be reserved for growing children with small curves. Non-operative intervention usually involves the use of a metal back brace. This is primarily prescribed for growing children with small curves (the angle of curvature can be from 20 to 40 degrees), or for moderate curves (up to 45 degrees) in young adults who’ve stopped growing.

Many adults can remember from childhood occasionally seeing kids wearing a awkward-looking metal back brace that extended out of the neck of their shirt, and enveloping the back of their heads. Wearing a brace can be embarrassing and stressful for a child. Many modern, such as the new “low profile” braces can be completely covered by clothing. A brace is typically worn for 12 to 23 hours a day for months (often until the child stops growing). Support from family and friends means everything for the success of brace treatment.

Surgical treatment is reserved for patients with severe curves (over 45 degrees), or those who have symptoms, or are bothered by their curves. Surgery involves placing metal implants on the spine which will correct rotation of the spine and prevent further curve progression. The overwhelming majority of patients do not need surgery.
Until 2007 routine scoliosis screenings were mandated by law in middle schools in Maryland, however, that law was repealed in 2007, after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended against these screenings in children without symptoms. Be sure to request a screening from your health care provider, particularly if scoliosis runs in your family. For 30% of patients the condition appears to be hereditary. Unfortunately, there is no consistent exercise regimen that has been proven to prevent scoliosis or slow its progression.

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