Identifying SCOLIOSIS in Children

Many scoliotic spines are detected by those who work closely with children, such as a swimming coach or ballet teacher as they will notice slight changes in posture due to the effects it will have on the child. Unfortunately, Scoliosis is often not detected until it is a significant problem.

Why does this happen?

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine (backbone) bends to the side abnormally. There are 3 directions in which a spine can move, forwards and backwards, twisting left and right and bending left and right. In Scoliosis, the spine adopts the abnormal bending of spine as its new normal. The abnormal bending of spine then becomes permanent and the bones change shape as the scoliosis enlarges and ages, and become more rigid and permanent.

Scoliosis is often not easily detected early. Scoliosis hides beneath the children’s musculoskeletal framework and can often increase to significant levels with only showing minimum hints that it is there. The importance of recognizing and acting on these hints is immeasurable!

Simple Guideline to identifying Scoliosis at an early stage

The child should be viewed from behind, barefoot with the spine easily seen and the legs must be straight, but relaxed.

  1. Start at the pelvis. If the pelvis is higher on one side, this may be an indication that there is a longer leg on one side.
  2. Look at the waistline (the area between the ribs and the pelvis). Check if there is a deeper crease on one side compared to the other.
  3. The shoulder blades should be mirror images of each other. If one shoulder blade is higher than the other, slightly forward compared to the other or twisted, then a scoliosis may be present.
  4. The shoulder girdle (the set of bones that supports the forelimbs) should be level, or closely level. Most people tend to be slightly lower on the dominant side, but this shouldn’t be more than a few millimeters in difference.
  5. Check the position of the neck if it is straight, tilted or bent.
  6. Lastly, look at the spine and the ribs. The spine should be straight and the ribs should not show any signs of a hump forming.

Test for Scoliosis

There is a test called the “Adams forward bending test”, which can be done after the visual check. Ask the child to bend forwards while standing with legs straight. A raised section on either side of the spine strongly indicates that there could be a scoliosis present.

Why Early Detection of Scoliosis helps?

Early detection of scoliosis helps to ensure that early treatment is applied. As scoliotic spines worsen, the treatment options become lesser and the possibility of positive results after treatment also reduces. All children should be screened for scoliosis at least by the age of 8 and this test should be done yearly even if no abnormality is seen.

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