school starts around the country, many parents have concerns about
backpacks and scoliosis screenings. What’s the truth?
I speak to more and more patients, I’ve come to a realization that
there is quite a bit of confusion about what scoliosis is, and how it
can affect your child’s health. Many people remember going into the
school nurse’s office every so often and get a scoliosis test where
they bend down from their waste and touch their toes, as shown below.
most common screening test for scoliosis.
what is scoliosis? Scoliosis involves a curved deformity in the
spine. Now here’s where it gets funky. There are good curves and
bad curves in the spine. When you look at someone from the side, the
spine normally has 3 curves that curve to the front, back, and front
again. These curves provide strength and stability to the spine in
gravity. A scoliotic curve is seen from the front or back, and may
indicate a structural abnormality or congenital deformity.
curves are visible if you look at someone from the side.
you look at someone from the front or back, curves in the spine are a
bad sign and may indicate the presence of scoliosis.
people can have a scoliosis and never feel any effects or symptoms
from it. Others may experience more common symptoms like back pain,
neck/shoulder tension and posture/cosmetic problems. In rare cases, the curvature can
become large enough (50 degrees or more), that it can compress the
chest cavity causing respiratory and cardiac problems, and become a
comes in 2 main forms. There are is a functional scoliosis which is
typically named idiopathic scoliosis, and there is a scoliosis called
structural/anatomical scoliosis is called by a malformed vertebra
which can force the spine to a curved position as it seeks to get
back to center. This type of scoliosis cannot be fully corrected and
it can also lead to larger curvatures depending on how malformed the
functional/idiopathic scoliosis is named as such because there is
typically no medically known cause. This is the most common type of
scoliosis. These types of curvatures can be corrected and
reduced significantly through conservative means when caught before
a person is fully developed.
real question is, should you be worried?
truth is, if you’re just worried about pain, then probably not.
Many times, scoliosis is asymptomatic, especially in children. In
fact, most people will probably go through their childhood with no
knowledge that it is even there. For the category of idiopathic
scoliosis, it is often the secondary result of a structural shift in
one or more bones in the spine.
curve is usually not described as a scoliosis until it reaches the 10
degree mark. Most people are concerned when the curvature surpasses
20 degrees, as that’s when bracing becomes a common recommendation,
and cosmetic concerns become more obvious (postural problems,
protruding shoulder blade, etc). When the curve grows 40 degrees,
surgery starts to become a real option for treatment.
key is catching these curves early. Scoliosis is most commonly found
in girls during adolescence, which is a great window of opportunity
for structural correction, no matter how small the curve may be. Just
like how a bent frame of a car can create suspension problems and
tire wear/tear, a bent spine can increase the damage the spine
experiences throughout life. I’ve seen x-rays of people well into
their 40’s and 50’s who have never experienced spine pain, but
will show a scoliotic spine with disc degeneration and bone spurs in
the exact pattern that the structural alignment would dictate.
the spine shows early wear and tear, the nerves can get damaged and cause secondary conditions as well as changes into
the muscles, ligaments, and even the vital organs of the body can
start to show.
a worried parent, what can you do? Here are a few tips:
a spinal check up by someone who is focused on the health of the
spine! Nurses and general practitioners do a great job of
identifying major curvatures using basic screening tools, but these
will typically identify cases of scoliosis that are excessively
large and may be candidates for surgery. A chiropractor
focused on structural correction instead
of pain relief can recognize smaller deviations and provide tools to
correct them if necessary.
the one shoulder back pack routine. It may look cooler and be more
comfortable, but extra forces on a spine that isn’t optimally
positioned can increase scoliotic curves.
active. Movement is life and a spine that moves early and often has
more pliability and flexibility than one that is sedentary and
the weight down. If you had a crooked house and you add more weight
to it, what happens to the house? It breaks down faster. The same
thing happens to the body. If you build more mass on top of a
crooked structure, it will lead to earlier degeneration. Stay fit.