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HEALTHY LIVING: Straight talk about scoliosis

by By Siloam Springs Regional Hospital | July 21, 2021 at 5:22 a.m.

Simple screening can help spot the telltale "S" or "C" curve of the back caused by scoliosis.

Scoliosis is a spine disorder that causes the gently curved spinal column to become exaggerated, resembling the letter S or C.

While there are some known causes of scoliosis, including injury, muscle spasms, tumors and birth defects, the most common type of scoliosis is idiopathic. That means no one is sure why it happens in 80 percent of scoliosis cases.

Screening guidelines

Most types of idiopathic scoliosis start between ages 10 and 18. That's why so many schools focus on scoliosis screenings for children in middle school.

The Scoliosis Research Society recommends screening for scoliosis and other spinal deformities twice for girls, at ages 10 and 12, and once for boys, at age 13 or 14.

Scoliosis screening is a quick, visual examination that can help identify issues early when they are most responsive to intervention. Talk to your child's primary care provider if you don't think she's been screened.

Janet Bilyeu, APRN, of Siloam Springs Family Medicine, is accepting new patients of all ages. Same-day appointments are available. To schedule an appointment today, call (479) 215-3035. Siloam Springs Family Medicine is located at 3721 E. US 412 Hwy. in Siloam Springs. Walk-ins are welcome.

How doctors help

If a scoliosis screening identifies a problem, a doctor will typically recommend an X-ray image of the spine be taken so he can identify the extent of the curve. Once he knows that, he uses other information, including the child's age and likelihood of growing more, when determining a course of treatment.

In some cases, a doctor may just want to monitor the degree of curvature in your child's spine as he grows. One treatment option, wearing a brace, helps keep the spine in place and prevent future curving.

Doctors may also recommend specific exercises to keep the muscles strong and strengthen the bones. While exercise hasn't been shown to prevent scoliosis, it is important for helping children stay well and mobile.

Surgical intervention

When spinal curves become too severe or are causing chronic discomfort, your child's spine specialist may recommend surgery. Surgery is typically not recommended until a child has finished growing. During this procedure, an orthopedic spine specialist realigns the spine and braces it in place using plates, screws and bone grafts to prevent further curving.

After the spine is reconstructed, it no longer grows in an extreme curve. Though surgery is not necessary for all children with idiopathic scoliosis, it is a successful treatment option when needed.

What is kyphosis?

Unlike scoliosis, kyphosis only affects the upper back. Kyphosis is a spinal deformity caused by several vertebrae in a row becoming squeezed together. It can occur at any age.

Common signs of kyphosis include a hunched back and slouching. It can be hereditary, or it can be the result of bone fractures, infections, connective tissue disorders, degenerative diseases, including arthritis, or other conditions.

Kyphosis can cause pain, difficulty breathing and fatigue. Orthopedic specialists can correct kyphosis with surgery if necessary.

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