I bet it’s not difficult for you to remember what your life was like between the ages of 10 and 18. The adolescent years are a magical time for many of us, and if you are like me, the experiences you had as a teen helped to mold you into the person you are today. Sadly, many teens who have been diagnosed with scoliosis must adjust their lifestyles, choices and plans for the future. Traditional scoliosis treatment options for teens also tend to negatively impact the ability to make the most of what should be a positive and memorable time.
Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) is actually the most common form of the condition. Idiopathic means that there is no known cause, which is a fact that frustrates teens and their parents. Regardless of the cause, however, scoliosis treatment approaches should take into account the needs, preferences and future goals of the patient.
AIS affects 4-5% of adolescents, which may not seem like a large number, but it is significant. This is especially true when you consider the impact that such a condition has on the trajectory of a young person’s life.
Symptoms include a “rib hump,” which is usually the most obvious, visible sign of the condition, asymmetrical shoulder heights and “torso lean,” which is a shift of the body to either the right or left that creates the appearance of one hip being higher than the other.
Teens do not always experience pain in association with AIS, largely because of the upward, lengthening motion of the body’s growth during this time. By contrast, adults with scoliosis tend to experience more pain because once they have stopped growing, the tendency is for the spine to compress, which leads to pressure that causes pain and discomfort.
Because pain is rarely expressed — or even evident — teens should be examined for abnormalities in their body symmetry and posture. Further examinations can reveal a curvature of the spine. If the curvature is greater than 10 degrees, the adolescent is diagnosed with scoliosis.
Once a diagnosis has been made, parents and their adolescent children are faced with some critical decisions. Traditionally, a “wait-and-see” approach is taken with teenage patients. When spinal curves become severe, though, scoliosis treatment approaches such as surgery will be recommended. If the child is still growing and developing, grow rods may be implanted, which will require subsequent procedures as the child continues to grow. If the child is older and closer to the conclusion of their growth period, spinal-fusion surgery is recommended as a remedy for scoliosis.
If you are the parent of an adolescent who has been diagnosed with scoliosis, you probably have a lot of concerns and questions running through your mind.
To help you better understand the impact that AIS will have on your child, here are some important scoliosis treatment facts for teens:
The traditional approach to adolescent scoliosis treatment suggests that while the body is still developing, very little can be done to improve functionality and reduce the curvature of the spine. Sadly, this approach almost always leads to expensive, invasive surgery, whether it’s during your child’s adolescence or at some point in adulthood. You don’t have to wait it out, though. In fact, alternative treatment options allow your son or daughter to strengthen their spine while improving functionality and preventing additional curvature. This gives them a chance to participate fully in all the activities that are so crucial to their adolescent life.
When surgery is the ultimate outcome of a treatment approach, it’s easy to see why it might affect the ability to select a more active career path. But when alternative approaches are taken, anything is possible. For example, General Douglas MacArthur was initially refused entry into West Point Academy due to his scoliosis. But he engaged diligently in spinal exercises that improved his strength and mobility. Later, he was admitted to West Point, and the rest is history!
Additionally, in most non surgical cases, the ability to become pregnant and have healthy children is not affected — even when large curves are present. In surgical cases, it will not affect the ability to have children, but it should be noted that the patient can experience more pain during pregnancy.
If you have been made to believe that surgery — along with the associated complications and costs — is inevitable, you will be pleased to know that alternatives exist. In fact, alternative treatments that employ a host of modalities including chiropractic care can give your teen an even richer and fuller life than the surgical path promises, at a fraction of the cost.
Please don’t wait to have your adolescent child screened for scoliosis! Checkups should happen regularly — at the very least, once per year. Your teenage son or daughter is unlikely to complain about discomfort or pain, so it is up to you to be proactive. And because adolescence is the timeframe when children become more private and independent, you need to be extra diligent about ensuring their good health. A scoliosis diagnosis may be difficult to hear, but when it happens sooner than later, it gives you and your child the chance to set foot on a path that makes them stronger and better able to live an unlimited life.
You love your child, and the last thing you want is for them to miss out on their adolescence because of scoliosis — or because of the necessity of scoliosis surgery. Whether your adolescent son or daughter has received a scoliosis diagnosis or you are simply concerned that they may have the condition, you probably have a lot of questions about what comes next. Fortunately, the answers and the promise of a fulfilling life are just a phone call or an email away.
The team here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center understands what you and your child are going through, and we want to help you make the best choices for your son or daughter’s future. Give us a call at 321-939-2328 or send us an email at [email protected] to learn more about the exciting treatment options that are available today. We look forward to hearing from you!