How many times a day do you tell your kids to “stand up straight”? We’ve all heard of scoliosis and how important it is to avoid it, but how much do we really know about what causes it? DR KING LOK LIU, Specialist in Orthopaedics and Traumatology at Matilda Hospital answered our questions.
What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a lateral (toward the side) curvature in the normally straight vertical line of the spine. When viewed from the side, the spine should show a mild roundness in the upper back and a degree of swayback (inward curvature) in the lower back. When a person with a normal spine is viewed from the front or back, the spine appears to be straight. When a person with scoliosis is viewed from the front or back, the spine appears to be curved.
What causes it?
The causes for 80 to 85 percent of all scoliosis cases are usually unknown. Boys and girls are equally affected by small curves, but girls are eight times more likely to develop progressive curves. According to recent research, about one in three children whose parents have scoliosis will develop scoliosis. Scoliosis is considered a partially genetic condition; however, exactly which genes cause scoliosis is inconclusive.
Can a heavy school bag be a culprit?
No. Parents should understand that the following factors are not associated with the condition:
- Carrying school bags
- Bad posture
- Unequal leg length
- Back injury
- Playing musical instruments
- Sports activities
How is it treated?
For moderate curves in growing children, brace treatment is recommended. Braces will not completely eliminate scoliosis. However, a well-fitted and diligently worn corrective brace can significantly slow or prevent curve progression.
For the very small number of children with severe curves, internal fixation is applied to the spine to correct the curve within the limits of safety. Nowadays, surgery for scoliosis has been made very safe by major advances in surgical techniques.
Signs of scoliosis
Dr Liu explains what parents can do to check if their child may have the condition:
#1 Take off the child’s top, and have them stand with their feet together.
#2 Look at the child from behind, and check for signs such as uneven shoulder levels and protruding shoulder blades.
#3 Pay attention to the back, any asymmetry in the waistline contour or a tilted pelvis.
#4 Ask the child to bend forward so you can check if the ribcage protrudes significantly.
If any variation from the norm is seen, consult a specialist as early as possible for closer monitoring and if necessary further investigations by x-ray.
For more information visit here.
Dr Liu also practices at Asia Medical Specialists, 8/F, China Building, 29 Queen’s Road Central (2521 6830). Matilda is at 41 Mount Kellett Road, The Peak.
For more advice and information on issues you may be concerned about take a look at our health and medical page