Doctors urge children to be screened for Scoliosis Awareness Month
June is Scoliosis Awareness Month. About 7 million people in the U.S. suffer from scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine that can cause pain, limited mobility and poor posture. Most scoliosis sufferers are children who without monitoring or treatment could be robbed of their childhood.
Treatment options have consisted of watching and waiting, hard bracing, and in severe cases where heart and lung function may be involved, surgery is often recommended. Fortunately, doctors like Dr. Christopher Murray offer conservative scoliosis treatment options previously not available to the tri-city area, which are an effective alternative, allowing children to participate in most activities without restriction.
During the second full week of June, June 11th-June 15th, Murray Natural Health & Chiropractic will be offering free scoliosis screenings for children and adults.
“The key is early diagnosis,” said Clinic Director Dr. Christopher Murray of Murray Natural Health & Chiropractic, LLC. “By identifying scoliosis early enough a curve specific spinal rehab program can be developed for patients, providing options to more invasive treatment options and reducing the need for surgery.”
Scoliosis symptoms include uneven shoulders, shoulder blades, ribs, waist, or hips, a noticeable sideways curve in the spine when looking from the back, or the appearance of the ribs being higher on one side when the child is bending over. It is sometimes a friend or family member who initially detects an issue and gets a child to the doctor. Other times, scoliosis is discovered during a school screening.
“School exams and athletic exams are often the best place to screen for scoliosis so that all children regardless of race, creed, or socio-economic status get an equal opportunity for the least invasive, least expensive and most effective treatment option available,” said Dr. Christopher Murray. “Fewer than half of U.S. states currently legislate screening for scoliosis in schools, so it is imperative that in addition to school nurses, parents, health professionals, coaches and children are aware of the early signs of scoliosis.”
Scoliosis, which tends to run in families, causes the spine to curve sideways in the shape of a “S” or “C” greater than 10 degrees. Girls are eight times more likely than boys to progress to a curvature that requires treatment (1). One quarter of children with spinal curves require medical attention (2). Each year, an estimated 30,000 children are fitted for a brace and 100,000 children and adults diagnosed with scoliosis undergo surgery (1).
Hard bracing, surgery, and simply watching and waiting have been some of the primary treatments utilized in the past. Although at time necessary, some of these treatments are very invasive and may not be effective. In scoliosis surgery, vertebrae or bones in the back are fused
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together using rods and screws that remain in the back to help straighten the spine and provide stability. Rehabilitation from scoliosis surgery can take several months.
More research has been conducted supporting strengthening and rehabilitation therapy, strengthening the spine and helping it to untwist from it’s abnormal position. “When patients undergo spine rehabilitation therapy for scoliosis they often notice their backs become more flexible and they have less pain,” says Dr. Christopher Murray. Scoliosis spinal rehabilitation is a new therapy offered at Dr. Murray’s clinic, a therapy involving specially designed scoliosis traction and exercise equipment and procedures, that have not been available anywhere else in the Tri-city area previously.
Many major medical associations agree school screenings may be the most important tool in getting pre-teens with scoliosis early treatment. A statement, published in the January 2008 issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and endorsed by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the Scoliosis Research Society, the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends that girls get scoliosis screenings twice at ages 10 and 12 and boys once at ages 13 or 14 (3).
Advances in scoliosis diagnosis are also rapidly improving. In 2007, researchers announced the discovery of the gene that underlies the scoliosis condition and are working to determine how a defect in this gene affects spinal development. Other researchers are developing the first genetic prognostic test for scoliosis that will use specific genetic markers that predict curve progression.
1 National Scoliosis Foundation. Available online: www.scoliosis.org.
2 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Available online at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/connect/psa.htm.
3 Richards BS and Vitale MG. Screening for Idiopathic Scoliosis in Adolescents: An Information Statement. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2008; 90:195-198.