How to check for scoliosis in a child ?

Scoliosis child

I often hear a lot of parents saying that their child was diagnosed with scoliosis, but when I ask them if they know what scoliosis is, they often reply…”no.” It always amazes me how often, doctors will tell someone they or their loved ones have some ailment, but fail to explain what it is. It also amazes me that patients rarely inquire as to what their problem actually is! Believe that they don’t want to feel embarrassed that they may not understand the medical terminology that the doctor was speaking of. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. Remember, the doctor when to school for years specifically to learn about those things. You probably didn’t. So my first advice to you this month is that if a doctor tells you have a condition that you don’t fully understand, don’t hesitate to ask them what exactly this condition entails. If she or he is a good doctor, they will have no problem answering you. If the doctor feels they do not have to explain it to you, it may be time to fire your doctor! I believe that education, and proper understanding, is a key ingredient, to the healing process.

Something I find even more interesting, is that once a patient is “diagnosed” with literally anything, they just think they “have it,” and there is nothing anyone can do about this. I find this is true of scoliosis, arthritis, digestive disorders, migraine headaches, tendinitis, bursitis, and many more ailments. Most of these are fully treatable by natural means. I couldn’t count the number of times I have noticed a patients shoulder bothering them, and have asked, “would you like me to work on your shoulder today?” They often reply, “Oh, you can’t help my shoulder. My doctor said I have Tendinitis.” So I laugh, and then I explain to them that that just means there tendon is inflamed, and it can easily be treated.” They are shocked! They though they had some type of incurable medical mystery. Naming something most certainly does not solve the problem. But all too often people are satisfied with a diagnosis, instead of a treatment. It is almost as if since a word exists, for what is hurting them, it is ok for it to hurt. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Pain is a warning sign from the body, that something is wrong, and ignoring your bodies warning signs is always a bad idea. Just because something is “tendinitis,” does not mean the problem should be ignored. The other day, an employee of the bank I frequent said that she took her daughter to the doctor, and they said that she has scoliosis. When this mom asked what to do, the doctors replied that they would have to wait until the problem became worse, before they intervened! “Watchful waiting.” I believe in a more proactive approach to health problems. So did this woman, and now her daughter is a patient of mine.

The term scoliosis is thought to be originated from Hippocrates; coming form the Latin word soils, meaning twisted or crooked.

The spine itself, like any marvelous structure, is built in such a way, to withstand the effects of stress. If you were looking at an individual from the side view, there are 3 very specific curves that are supposed to be in the spine. These natural curves act like a spring, or a shock absorber, and allow the spine to absorb stress. There is the neck curve (cervical), the mid back curve (thoracic), and the low back curve (lumbar). Scientific literature has discovered that not only should these curves be present, but also their very specific angles these curves should be at. These curves are very important to overall spinal heath, however, are NOT the topic of conversation for this article. I only mention them because sometimes people get confused due to the fact that although there are certain curves that should be present from the side view (lateral view), NO curves should be present from the front to back (anterior to posterior) view.

So for example, if you stand directly behind your child, the spine should be totally straight from the skull, down to the tailbone. If there is any abnormal curvature from this view, it is referred to as scoliosis. You can use a couple of easy landmarks to see if abnormal curvature exists. First look at the left and right ear. They should be even. If one ear is higher then the other, it could represent an abnormal curvature (scoliosis) in the spine. Next, look at the shoulders. See if your child has even shoulders. If the left or right shoulder is high, it may indicate a scoliosis. You can then look at the hips. Once again, see if they are level, or unlevel.

Another give away can often be looking at the shoulder blades (Scapula’s). If one is very protruded, or “winged,” further then the other, it may indicate a potential problem.

Another simple test you can do is called Adams orthopedic test. The school nurse often performs this test at schools. Simply have the child bend forward while arching the back up like a cat. The bumps in the center of the spine (spinus processes) should all line up in a row vertically (top to bottom). If they are curved, it may indicate a scoliosis.

The checks I just shared with you are a good preliminary way to screen for potential problems, however, they are only a general screening. As we all know, the earlier you catch any possible health problem, the better. But if you do suspect scoliosis in your child, please BE SURE to bring your child to a Chiropractor or a Medical Doctor who can do further testing such as x-rays to see if there truly is a scoliosis. One very important reason to get your child checked if you suspect a scoliosis is that there is a wide range of classifications ranging from idiopathic (unknown cause), to more serious causes such as cerebral palsy, rheumatoid disease, or even tumors (There are 13 different classifications of structural scoliosis and 6 classifications of nonstructural scoliosis!) . Pathological causes must be ruled out to keep your child as healthy and safe as possible. Additionally, the severity of the scoliosis can be measured on the x rays. If scoliosis is present, depending on the severity, there are various treatment options ranging from chiropractic adjustments, to bracing, to surgery. The specific treatments are beyond the scope of this months article, however if that is something you are interested in, I would be happy to do a follow up article on specific treatment options. Just write in to the publisher of Single Parent magazine, if this topic is of interest to you.

Once again, I hope this information helps keep you and your child safe. Often concerned parents are able to recognize when their child is developing a health problem before the doctor. Keep that in mind.

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