When my first my child was born with scoliosis, I was surprised to learn most of what I knew about it was false. While I had previously believed myths about the condition, you don’t have to. Modern medicine has changed what it means to have scoliosis. Now, it’s time for facts to replace outdated ideas about scoliosis.
Teenage Girls Only?
When I was a pre-teen, my doctor screened me for scoliosis. Like many people, I thought it was because only girls needed to worry about scoliosis, and even then, only as a teenager. While idiopathic scoliosis is eight times more common in girls, it is only one of four major types of pediatric scoliosis. Early onset scoliosis affects boys more often than girls, and occurs before the age of five. Congenital scoliosis, like my son has, occurs equally between boys and girls. Neuromuscular scoliosis depends on which neuromuscular disease causes the scoliosis; some conditions only affect boys. While most cases of scoliosis are idiopathic, it doesn’t mean scoliosis is just for girls.
Most cases of scoliosis are mild. Unfortunately, that give rise to the myth that scoliosis is no big deal. Untreated, it can result in back pain, difficulty with heart and lung function, and social problems. Modern advances reduce or eliminate these complications, but only with proper treatment. Blowing off scoliosis is the greatest risk for this population in the Western world.
Clunky, Metal Back Braces
Due to movies and books, many people think the only treatment for scoliosis is the metal, Milwaukee brace. Most professionals now prescribe the Boston, or low-profile, brace for most patients. Made of modern plastic, it’s light-weight and fitted to the body. Most people would never notice it under clothing.
While orthopedic surgery advances rapidly, spinal surgery remains one to avoid, if possible. The risks include bleeding, infection, pain, and nerve damage: not risks to take lightly with the spinal cord. Most professionals still recommend prevention with bracing.
My biggest shock as a parent was to learn that we’d probably be doing nothing regarding treatment. For many cases of scoliosis, careful monitoring of progression is all that’s required. As long as the curvature remains to a low degree, then no brace or surgery is necessary. Different parts of the spine are more vulnerable to progression, and only a professional should make that assessment.
I never thought I’d face the diagnosis of scoliosis in my newborn son. But, armed with facts instead of myths, we can face the future together.