Scoliosis screening for a child

Detecting scoliosis in its early stages is important if you want to halt its progression and minimise the severity of the symptoms. This raises the question: should we be screening for scoliosis in schools?

School screenings aim to detect the minor deformities that often go unnoticed by general practitioners but which can point to a possible curvature of the spine.

Family doctors don't tend to carry out routine checks for scoliosis, so symptoms are often left untreated until the curvature becomes more prominent or the patient starts to experience pain - an outcome that could potentially have been avoided with early detection. Unfortunately, if the patient's spinal curve is allowed to develop to 40 degrees (or more), treatment options become very limited.

 

Why Should We Screen in Schools?

It's estimated that 3 or 4 children out of every 1,000 in the UK need to be treated for scoliosis - and with over 8.7 million pupils in schools across the UK as of 2018, you can imagine how prevalent this condition really is. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis tends to develop while children are aged between 10 and 15, so screening at this time could well help to reduce the number of adults suffering with severe scoliosis in this country.

If it's caught early, exercise-based therapies like our ScolioGold treatment programme can be used to prevent scoliosis from getting worse (even helping some patients to avoid invasive spinal surgery).

Interestingly, in the past, the UK did screen for scoliosis in schools. This was a fairly common practice up until the 1990s, but it was eventually abandoned.

Researchers Muhammad Ali Fazal and Michael Edgar from the University College Hospital and the London Clinic conducted a study called The Detection of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis and were able to ascertain that:

"In the year 2000, only 8% of patients with scoliosis had been identified by school screenings compared to 32% in 1985. Similarly, the number of patients presenting with curves over 40° increased to 70%, showing that untrained eyes are only capable of identifying spinal deformities at a later stage."

These findings highlight the important role school screenings can play in preventing debilitating cases of scoliosis. So why aren't we employing a national scoliosis screening strategy now?

 

Concerns About Screening

There have been a number of petitions to bring scoliosis screenings back to UK schools. Unfortunately, none have yet been successful.

The government's response to such petitions has been largely influenced by the advice offered by the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) who, after a three-month consultation, decided that screenings for scoliosis should not be offered. There were several reasons for this decision:

  • Firstly, the UK NSC found that there was no standardised or agreed cut-off for the Adams forward bending test where doctors agreed that the child needed treatment. This meant that some children would go on to have further scoliosis tests even though they'd likely have gotten better on their own, while others would miss out on further tests and treatments even as their curvature became worse over time.

  • Secondly, the UK NSC expressed a concern that school children might be exposed to harmful x-rays unnecessarily if the Adams forward bending test was not capable of determining the severity of the child's condition.

  • Thirdly (as with everything) cost played a role in the final decision. The UK NSC expressed concern that the likelihood of false-positive diagnosis in relation to the cost of nationwide screening was not justifiable.

These recommendations against school screenings are based largely on outdated and limited data. In our opinion, based on the current data we have, it's reasonable to recommend that children and in particular adolescents participate in school screenings where both the Adams forward bending test and scoliometry are used.

 

Does My Child Have Scoliosis? What Should I Do?

If you think your child has scoliosis, or if your doctor has confirmed that your child has a curved spine, we can help you test and treat your child's scoliosis.

First of all, if you'd like to check your child for scoliosis at home, you can use the Adams forward bending test to check the alignment of your child's spine. We have a video showing you exactly what to do - you can watch it below.

Remember, no one's body is perfectly straight and symmetrical, but if you do notice an unevenness that's out of the ordinary, you should get in touch with your GP right away.

If your child is suffering from scoliosis, there are things you can do to help your child cope with scoliosis while they're at school. You can read our helpful tips by clicking the button below.

Coping with Scoliosis in School >

We've helped hundreds of school children with scoliosis to improve their curved spines. Give us a call on 0207 488 4428 if you'd like to speak to one of our therapists about your child's condition and potential treatment options.

yawning baby

For over 20 years, biologist Olivier Pourquié has been researching an intriguing 'tick'. When he was studying chicken embryos, Pourquié discovered the 'ticking' of a cellular clock that seemed to be linked to the formation of somites - structures that later turn into vertebrae.

Since then, Pourquié and his team have been studying this 'segmentation clock' in a variety of other organisms to determine how the 'tick' is linked to the development of the spine. They were able to replicate the 'tick' in a lab dish using mouse cells, but had never confirmed whether it existed in humans...until now!

After decades of research, Pourquié and his team have successfully replicated the segmentation clock using stem cells derived from adult human tissue. This incredible achievement has huge implications for the study of spinal conditions such as congenital scoliosis. This innovative in-vitro system will give the scientific community the ability to look at early spine development in humans. "Our system should be a powerful one to study the underlying regulation of the segmentation clock," said Porquié.

When the discovery was first made, researchers were shocked that they were able to see the segmentation clock ticking in the cell dishes without having to replicate conditions similar to the human body. Pourquié described this two-dimensional model as a "dream system".

Firstly, researchers want to use the system to compare the segmentation clocks of different animal species. Initial comparisons between the segmentation clock in mice and humans showed that the human clock ticks roughly once every 5 hours, while the mouse clock ticks once every 2.5 hours. The difference in these times directly parallels the difference in time for human and mouse gestation.

Besides looking at embryonic development, the system will also allow researchers to create different kinds of differentiated tissue (tissues that arise from the same region of the embryo as the vertebrae). From these studies, new treatments can be devised that could potentially stop various medical conditions from developing. Researchers hope to study:

  • Skeletal muscle cells and their relationship with muscular dystrophy
  • Brown fat cells and their ties to the development of type 2 diabetes

As well as exploring:

  • What controls the segmentation clock's variable speed
  • What regulates the length of embryonic development in different animal species

We're looking forward to seeing how this technology will impact the development of infantile spine conditions like scoliosis. It's great to see such impressive and innovative work being done in this field. Read the full story here.

If you're suffering with scoliosis and looking for an exercise-based treatment option, we can help! Enquire here.

Scoliosis self-care and exercise

Scoliosis can be a very debilitating condition, often making it hard for patients to look after themselves on a day-to-day basis. Activities like getting dressed, bathing and even walking can become difficult. Some scoliosis patients suffer from chronic back pain, and this can easily leave them feeling run down and fed up.

But don't worry - it's often the case that a few lifestyle changes can help you to feel better about yourself and move around more freely. One way to tackle the daily challenges that scoliosis throws at you is by implementing a varied and relaxing self-care routine.

Scoliosis self-care draws on a lot of standard self-care practices, and many of the suggestions we're about to make can be beneficial whether you have scoliosis or not. Of course, we've tailored each self-care activity to be most beneficial for scoliosis patients specifically.

 

Exercise

Exercise is at the centre of almost every self-care plan, and whether you're capable of a full workout or just a few limited movements, it can go a long way towards relieving your pain and lifting your spirits.

People with scoliosis should focus on exercises that target the core and back muscles to help strengthen the area around the spine. This helps to improve posture, as well as reducing the chances of injury. Before undertaking any activities (particularly sports), we recommend speaking to your GP to make sure you know your physical limitations - pushing yourself too hard can do a lot of harm.

ScolioGold Therapy

If you undergo one of our scoliosis treatment courses, we will teach you a wide variety of stretches and exercises that you can do easily at home. These will help to prevent your spinal curvature from progressing while increasing your flexibility and mobility.

We have a growing library of exercise videos that you can use to guide you, most of which can be followed without any additional equipment. Gentle exercises like yoga and Pilates are ideal if you just want to get your body moving in a low-impact environment.

 

Mental Health

One of the other great benefits of exercise is the positive impact it can have on your mental health - something that everyone should focus on improving as part of their self-care efforts. Scoliosis tends to come hand-in-hand with feelings of insecurity, and the psychological impacts of the condition are often overlooked (see Scoliosis and Depression).

Fortunately, there are lots of different things you can try to help boost your mood.

Meditation and mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are two of the best ways to actively work on your mental well-being. Taking a few minutes out of each day to switch your phone off, sit quietly and reflect on everything you have to be grateful for can really improve your mood. More info here: Can Mindfulness Help with Scoliosis?

Learn to say no sometimes...

Remember that it's okay to say no to people sometimes. One thing that our patients often tell us is that they're burning the candle at both ends without giving themselves a break, and while we know it can be hard to say no, sometimes it's the best thing you can do for yourself. You don't have to go to every party; you don't have to attend every meal out with friends. It's okay to take some time for yourself and rest if your scoliosis is making you anxious or if it's particularly painful today.

...but not all the time

On the other hand, it's important that you don't become reclusive for long periods of time as this can lead to depression. If your friend invites you out for a coffee while you're feeling particularly low, you might find that getting up and out of the house makes you feel significantly better! It's a real balancing act, but one that can be worked on and refined all the time.

 

Relax, Relax, Relax

There's no better way to treat yourself to a little self-care than with a good old-fashioned pamper session. Treat yourself to a nice warm drink, or run a bath and add your favourite bubble bath or bath salts. We recommend a muscle soak or Epsom salts to help relieve the tension associated with scoliosis.

If you're struggling to cope with your scoliosis and you're interested in investigating exercise-based therapy options, get in touch with Scoliosis SOS today!

Today (5 February 2020) is National Girls & Women in Sports Day in the United States. Now in its 34th year, NGWSD celebrates the girls and women who participate in all sorts of different sporting activities, from rugby to roller derby.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, it's been our privilege to help many young women with scoliosis overcome their back problems and keep playing the sports they love. Our exercise-based scoliosis treatment programme is a great alternative to surgery that has demonstrated its effectiveness time and time again. Here are just some of our success stories...

Tennis player Marina

Marina Callis | Tennis

"My scoliosis caused me excruciating pain on a daily basis, and I often struggled to get out of bed in the morning. I really did believe I would be in pain forever. I now have the skills to control my own condition and that, for me, is priceless."

Read Marina's Story >

 

Runner Lottie Taylor

Lottie Taylor | Running

"When I was told that running would put pressure on my spine and could cause me a lot of damage, I was devastated. Running and keeping physically fit is important to me: I would be lost without my trainers. I am so glad I found these exercises - they have completely turned my life around, and I'm now looking forward to a bright future. I cannot wait to run the marathon one day."

Read Lottie's Story >

 

Swimmer Emma Raisin

Emma Raisin | Swimming

"I am really excited about how these exercises have put me back in control. Back pain can cause so much stress and so many problems, but I am looking forward to getting everything back on track. My hopes are to continue to avoid the surgery and to keep my condition under control."

Read Emma's Story >

 

Cheerleader Melissa Allan

Melissa Allan | Cheerleading

"I love dancing and moving around, and having to sit still and rest was just not me. Losing my flexibility would have meant the end of my dreams - I could not bear to think how unhappy it would have made me. The exercises were not easy, but the Scoliosis SOS therapists made them fun and I feel like I am back in control."

Read Melissa's Story >

 

Biker Latisha Johnson

Latisha Johnson | Biking

"I feel better even after the first few days. I really do feel like I have a new back. I love the thrill of getting on a bike and forgetting about everything, and I was devastated at the thought of having to give it up. I feel happy and alive again for the first time in years."

Read Latisha's Story >

 

Jockey Ella Coulton

Ella Coulton | Horse Riding

"Scoliosis completely rocked my world. I have always been so passionate about riding, but when I started feeling tired and getting pain down my back, it was really hard to stay motivated. I am ecstatic that I have been able to avoid surgery - my back looks amazing and I have my energy back. My confidence has soared, and I am so excited about getting back to riding."

Read Ella's Story >

 

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we use a scoliosis-specific physiotherapy programme to reduce spinal curvature and help our patients enjoy a better quality of life. View upcoming treatment dates here.

More Sporty Success Stories   Book a Scoliosis Consultation

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