Treating scoliosis is a race against the clock. If you catch it early enough, the right exercises can reduce it to negligible levels.
Unfortunately, many cases aren’t spotted until the spinal curve is moderately advanced. At that point treatment becomes more difficult and the risk of progression increases threefold.
For kids with scoliosis, early prevention is critical—which is why we’re celebrating Scoliosis Awareness Month this June. Despite the fact that the condition affects more than 7 million people (around 3 percent of the population), scoliosis screening remains deficient in the United States. Fewer than half of all states require screenings in schools, and those that do typically use an exam that fails to identify scoliosis until the curve has already progressed to nearly 30 degrees.
That’s far too late for early intervention. Effective scoliosis treatment involves retraining the brain to correct the spine’s alignment; through involuntary exercises, kids can build new subconscious muscle memory and automatic habits to support a straighter spine. Children who start their neuromuscular retraining before the curve reaches 20 degrees can ultimately reduce its severity to less than 10 degrees.
Because school screenings are often unable to spot the initial warning signs of scoliosis, early prevention falls to parents. Consider performing a home scoliosis test if you believe your child is at risk of developing the condition. Scoliosis is most likely to afflict:
• Kids ages eight to 14.
• Girls, who are eight times more likely to get scoliosis than boys.
• Those with a thin or lanky body shape.
• A child whose parent or sibling has scoliosis.
To conduct a scoliosis home screening, perform the following steps with your child.
STEP 1: Forward Bend
Doctors and school nurses routinely use this simple exam during scoliosis screenings. Have your child stand with arms extended and palms held together, then bend at the waist as if touching their toes. Examine the back both from behind and from the front, looking for any signs of asymmetry.
• Is one side of the rib cage higher than the other?
• Is the lower back uneven?
• Does one hip appear higher than the other?
STEP 2: Standing Straight
Changes in posture are one of the earliest warning signs of scoliosis—often they hint at the condition before the curve itself becomes visible. As the spine grows into its curve, the shoulders, waist and hips are thrust out of alignment. Have your child stand up straight while you inspect their posture from the front, from behind and from the side.
• Is one shoulder higher than the other?
• Is one arm farther away from the body?
• Is one shoulder blade higher than the other?
• Are the hips uneven?
• Does the back look too rounded?
STEP 3: Clothes Check
Subtle changes in posture can be hard to spot, but sometimes your child’s clothing provides the first visible indication of spinal curvature. During your scoliosis home screening, study your child for signs of ill-fitting or uneven clothing.
• Is the hemline uneven?
• Does one pant leg hang lower than the other?
• Does one shirtsleeve appear longer than the other?
STEP 4: Eyes and Ears
The alignment of your child’s eyes and ears can also signal a spinal abnormality. Examine your child’s eye line and ears to check for scoliosis red flags.
• Is the eye line tilted?
• Is the center of the eyes out of alignment with the center of the hips?
• Is the inner ear forward of the shoulder?
STEP 5: Taking a Walk
Scoliosis can sometimes cause a slight limp or other irregularities while walking. Study your child’s normal gait to determine if any of these signs are present.
• Does your child have a slight limp?
• Does the body tilt to one side?
• Does one leg seem shorter than the other?
A scoliosis home screening is one of the most effective ways to detect the condition early. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone. If you spot any of the above warning signs, have your child’s posture examined by a specialist.