With about three million new cases diagnosed in the United States each year, scoliosis is a common spinal condition that primarily affects adolescents. In most cases, the cause of the condition is unknown. Patients with this condition have an S- or C-shaped spine that becomes worse during rapid development. Knowing when to start checking your child for scoliosis is important to ensure they develop good posture. Keep reading to learn the signs.
Early Diagnosis Is Key
The sooner you start inspecting your child’s spine for signs of scoliosis, the better chance you’ll have of catching it. The key to treating scoliosis is to begin as soon as possible. Children’s spines are malleable when they are young. As they get older, their bones become more rigid and harder to reshape.
Age at Which Children Are at Risk
It’s rare for children under the age of 4 to receive a scoliosis diagnosis. If young children between the ages of 4 and 10 have the condition, they typically need intense treatments, such as surgery.
Ages 10 through 15 is the most common age range that children may receive a scoliosis diagnosis. Adolescence is a time of rapid growth, during which mild curves may become major ones. Schools that check for scoliosis typically do so when their students are about this age to try and catch the condition early.
Signs of Scoliosis
Scoliosis affects about 10 percent of children and is more common in girls than boys. You may not notice the signs your child has scoliosis until the spinal curve becomes severe. Still, obvious signs your child may have the condition include:
- Uneven shoulders, hips, shoulder blades, waist, or ribs
- Ribs that stick out
- Uncentered head or waist
- Tilted eyeline
- Limping while walking
How To Screen for Scoliosis
The best way to check your child for scoliosis is with the Adam’s Forward Bend. This is the traditional test used by schools and doctors to look for scoliosis signs. Have your child remove their shirt and stand straight in front of you. Then they should bend at the waist. Look at all sides of their spine for symmetry. If you notice anything uneven or bulging, schedule an appointment with their doctor.
Treatment for Scoliosis
Multiple treatment options for scoliosis exist. Likely, your doctor will begin by monitoring the curve with X-rays. If the curve is showing signs of severe progression, they may begin physical therapy and/or bracing. Surgery is a last resort. It is an invasive procedure that surgeons only perform if bracing has failed or if a spinal curve has reached a severe degree.
It’s not always easy to know when to start checking your child for scoliosis. Some schools check kids when they’re in the fourth or fifth grade, but they may not catch mild cases. If scoliosis runs in your family, inspect your child’s spine often and let your pediatrician know it’s in your family history. Though there is no magic age to begin searching for signs of scoliosis, you can never inspect too soon or too often.