Today, I am going to write about scoliosis. I am sorry I was meant to publish this on the Scoliosis Awareness Day which is June 24th but baby brain had me think today was the 24th so I will apologise now that it is late!
I have to admit I never really knew about scoliosis, I knew there was a condition that curved the spine like a ‘s’ and I thought it was because of how people sat throughout their life but other than that, that was basically all I knew. That was until about 2 months ago.
2 months a go I was attending BBGs regular consultants appointment, when the consultant was looking at previous reports and then checking the signs and symptoms on BBG, then she said a sentence I wasn’t expecting
o yes, there is scoliosis
I just panicked. There was this word that no one had mentioned before. I had googled EVERY sign and symptom and I swear next time I search hypotonia Google will just say ‘there are no new articles stop searching’ but this word I had not come across before.
I asked what she meant and she sat BBG up, she noted the curve in the spine, she noted that when you tried to move BBG she couldn’t get rid of the curve. Her shoulders weren’t quite right and her chest looked wrong from the front. I knew the chest looked wrong but I had thought this was due to the chest shape complications she has I never once thought it was linked to her back!
They haven’t x-ray’d BBG just due to the fact her scoliosis is very noticeable and she is going through so many other tests they don’t want to x-ray to confirm what they already know. They don’t unfortunately know which type of scoliosis she has due to her having, muscular and skeletal abnormalities along with her age, however as some babies self correct their scoliosis, it is one symptom that is last on their list to worry about. This doesn’t mean scoliosis isn’t bad, it is and can be life altering however for BBG it is one of the minor abnormalities for her at the moment.
The next day was our physiotherapy appointment and I mentioned it to the physiotherapist who nodded and said yes she has got scoliosis, and again pointed exactly where the consultant had the previous day.
Now BBG isn’t getting any help or having any intervention at the moment for her scoliosis, this is due to her being small and still developing, they are hoping that it may self correct, this can happen but she has to be strictly monitored in relation to this.
As it is Scoliosis Awareness Month however, I decided to do some research into this condition, this condition that I was completely unaware of. I just want to thank Jocelyn Nowak from Janzen and Janzen Health Center who has given me the videos in the links below, they are short clips really explaining in more scientific, but parent friendly, language.
What is scoliosis?
Put simply scoliosis is just a twist and curve of the spine. The spine isn’t perfectly straight in a ‘normal’ situation but in scoliosis the spine is generally curved in either a “c” or “S” shape. Click here for a video demonstrating the difference in a normal vs a scoliosis spine.
What age do people get scoliosis?
So according to the NHS website babies to adults can get scoliosis. Mainly between the ages of 10 and 15 it will start to develop. This shows that it isn’t just older adults that get scoliosis and that actually it is pretty much the exact opposite to that.
Causes of scoliosis
Most cases of scoliosis is down as idiopathic scoliosis, this basically means they do not know what the cause is. It is worth noting that idiopathic scoliosis is not considered to be due to bad posture, exercise or diet. In fact some research shows that it maybe to down to genetics.
Sometimes the scoliosis can be due to other causes.
- Neuromuscular Scoliosis – An underlying nerve or muscular condition will cause this, such as Muscular Dystrophy and cerebral palsy
- Congenital Scoliosis – this is present from birth and is where the spine doesn’t form properly in the womb
- Early Onset Scoliosis – this is an idiopathic scoliosis however will be present from birth to 10 years of age.
- Degenerative Scoliosis – this affects older adults and is just wear and tear from life and age.
Scoliosis Association UK has more information about the different types of scoliosis.
Symptoms for scoliosis
- Pain in the back – generally only in adults
- uneven shoulders
- one shoulder or hip sticking out
- visibly curved spine
- leaning to one side
- the ribs sticking out on one side
- clothes not fitting
In babies to young children (Early Onset Scoliosis), boys are slightly more affected than girls and the curve is usually on the left side.
In older children (Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis) this then switches and girls are more affected than boys and the curve is usually on the right hand side.
If you notice any of these symptoms or are generally worried please see your GP who will test you and then refer you to your local hospital if they are worried.
Treatment varies depending on age.
Babies are generally just monitored to see if the scoliosis corrects itself.
Babies and young children can also be offered a back cast. This is to be worn all the time and gets changed every few months as the child grows. It is a plaster cast so similar to the cast you get if you break your arm.
As the child gets older a back brace is generally worn. This won’t correct the scoliosis but will help prevent it getting worse. This brace is not made of plaster cast but plastic and is custom fitted. It does need to be worn 23 hours a day and is designed so that you can carry on your everyday life, you just need to take it off for bathing, swimming and some sports. This brace is usually worn until growth has stopped at the age of 16/17 on average. Janzen and Janzen have a brilliant page to show the use of back braces and also xrays to show improvements that these have made. Click here to see in more depth about back braces.
Surgery is also an option for children. For those younger than 10 it generally means rods being inserted either side of the spine to stop the spine from curving. The back brace may still be needed. In older children (older teens and young adults who have stopped growing) a spinal fusion can be done, this is a permanent solution using; rods, hooks wires to make the spine straight. It sounds bad but you will spend roughly a week in hospital, will be back in school in a few weeks and can play sports in a couple of months.
Specialists do suggest doing sports as this strengthens the core muscles and can help stop the curve getting worse. Sometimes specialists do advise not to do certain activities but this is not common and only in certain circumstances. Physiotherapy depending on who you talk to can help scoliosis or can’t. So until there is more conclusive research that is all I am going to say.
For adults the treatments are very slightly different.
The use of pain killers and spinal injections are used for mild cases of scoliosis in adults. Surgery and back braces are generally not used in adults except when the spine is getting worse or where your spinal cord and nerves are being irritated by the scoliosis.
Living with scoliosis
This was one of the main worries I had with BBG however after researching scoliosis, I have found that people who live with it can have normal lives and can do most things including exercise and most sports! There is generally no significant pain, and scoliosis does not mean you have another health problem. Once you stop growing the scoliosis will generally stay the same and not get worse. Obviously knowing you wear a back brace, even though they are designed not to be seen under clothes, can cause self confidence issues which is completely understandable. 99% of people aren’t happy with something on their body and when you have to wear a back brace for your problem I can understand why it can cause such issues.
Thank you to Janzen and Janzen Health Center again for your help and videos and please remember to wear green for scoliosis awareness month.