Get scoliosis screening early

My daughter is a ballet dancer, so she is judged daily on her straight arms, legs and posture. One Saturday we were participating in a physical therapy evaluation when the therapist noted that she might need to be checked for scoliosis. Suddenly visions flashed in my mind of the half-body braces girls wore when I was in middle and high school.

I conducted some research from the National Institutes of Health website, which defines scoliosis as a sideways curve of your backbone, or spine. The curvature of the back is often S- or C-shaped. It starts very subtly in children and, if not diagnosed early, can lead to severe curves either away from the middle or leaning to one side.

Both boys and girls can get scoliosis, but girls seem to get it more often and are usually diagnosed around puberty. Adults can also be diagnosed with scoliosis but it is typically first found in children. Symptoms of scoliosis include:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other
  • Uneven waist
  • One hip higher than the other

Pediatricians often look for spine curvature, and schools may perform the check during annual middle- and high-school screenings. Today, however, budget cuts have forced some school districts to discontinue the screenings, which can result in scoliosis being missed in some kids. Doctors can diagnosis scoliosis through a simple and painless physical exam, medical and family history, and imaging tests. Treatments range from periodic monitoring to braces to surgery in severe cases.

The video below highlights a 16-year-old high school athlete whose severe scoliosis required surgery by John R. Dimar II, M.D., with Norton Leatherman Spine Center in Louisville, KY. If you are unsure your school performs the screening, ask your family doctor or pediatrician to do a scoliosis exam.