April 27, 2020
Although pediatric scoliosis can cause some challenges and difficulties, it is very often a manageable condition. In many cases, children diagnosed with scoliosis can enjoy normal activities with minimal impact on their quality of life.
We’re sharing the following guide to help you learn more about pediatric scoliosis, including the causes, treatment options, and how to meet your child’s care needs. The goal is to help you make informed and confident decisions with the best possible outcome for the health and wellness of your whole family.
What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a condition where the spine has an abnormal side-to-side, or lateral, curvature. A formal diagnosis will usually be made for curving greater than 10 degrees.
Doctors usually grade scoliosis on a scale of mild to severe. The mildest cases often require little-to-no treatment beyond monitoring. Severe cases can cause more debilitating symptoms that require treatments such as bracing and physical therapy.
Scoliosis is relatively rare, affecting approximately 2% of the population. While it is most common in adolescents aged 10 to 17, scoliosis can also affect children between the ages of four to nine, where it is diagnosed as pediatric scoliosis.
Pediatric Scoliosis Causes: Is Scoliosis Hereditary?
The most common form of scoliosis is idiopathic scoliosis, which means the cause is unknown. Because family history is a significant risk factor for pediatric scoliosis, genetics and heredity are likely to play a role in developing this condition.
Rarely, pediatric scoliosis can also be caused by a congenital birth defect that causes the spine to curve abnormally.
Scoliosis in children can also be caused by neuromuscular problems that affect the supporting structures of the spine and cause it to curve. This form of pediatric scoliosis can occur in children with conditions such as spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, and cerebral palsy.
Pediatric Scoliosis Symptoms
Children with scoliosis often display the following symptoms:
- Uneven shoulders, hips, and waist
- Visible leaning when standing up straight
- Different leg lengths
- Prominent shoulder blades
- Uneven gait
Scoliosis is usually not painful, but in rare cases, the condition can cause nerve compression that results in symptoms such as shooting pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness.
Testing and Diagnosing Pediatric Scoliosis
Because it can be easy to miss pediatric and adolescent scoliosis, many schools have screening to identify children who may have this condition. Pediatricians may also screen for scoliosis at regular checkups.
Doctors and health care providers encountering scoliosis symptoms in children will generally take the following steps to confirm the diagnosis:
- Review personal and family medical history
- Discuss symptoms and how they are impacting daily activities
- Perform physical evaluations, such as a forward bend test, to measure spinal curvature and alignment
- Take diagnostic imagery such as an X-ray or magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) to identify the exact location and degree of curvature
Treating and Managing Pediatric Scoliosis
Pediatric scoliosis is not curable, and the goal of treatment is generally to manage symptoms, improve mobility, and slow down the progression of the curvature.
In the mildest cases, children with pediatric scoliosis may only require regular monitoring during regular doctor visits to ensure the condition is stable.
In more severe cases, pediatricians and orthopedic specialists may recommend bracing to help stabilize the spine and improve posture and mobility. Physical therapy can also help improve posture, strengthen supporting muscles, and increase mobility.
Surgery may be recommended if the condition is worsening or causing debilitating pain or mobility issues, although this is not a common treatment for pediatric scoliosis.
Living with Pediatric Scoliosis
Children with pediatric scoliosis are generally encouraged to stay as physically active as possible. Exercise can help improve well-being, overall strength, self-esteem, and fitness. Children with pediatric scoliosis can also generally participate in non-contact, low-impact sports. Talk to your doctor about the activity level best for your child’s specific diagnosis.
Caring for a Child with Scoliosis
Except in the most serious cases, pediatric scoliosis does not come with extensive long-term care needs for children. Parents should expect regular appointments to monitor the condition; traditional physical therapy may be beneficial in some situations.
Severe scoliosis cases with extensive curvature may require closer care and supervision, particularly in neuromuscular scoliosis caused by spina bifida or muscular dystrophy. Children in these situations may need assistance with dressing, feeding, and other daily tasks, as well as requiring more frequent appointments and treatment sessions.
Families with extensive care needs and busy schedules often benefit from the support of pediatric home health care services. Home health professionals can assist with a wide range of care needs for children with pediatric scoliosis, including accompanying them to appointments, assisting with physical activities, and administering medication.
Contact Care Options for Kids For Pediatric Home Health Care
It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child who has a genetic disorder. Homecare providers offer the support you or your loved one needs.
That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids are here to help. Our home care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent caregivers to provide customized care for families – from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.