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.

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!

Weight scales and tape measure

Maintaining a healthy weight can be a tough task for people with scoliosis, especially those who find themselves in perpetual pain and discomfort as a result of their condition.

Chronic back pain can slam the brakes on physical activity - even when the mind is willing, you may feel physically unable to get up and exercise, and this can take its toll on your overall fitness.

But that doesn't mean you have to throw the towel in and resign yourself to a life of inactivity. Luckily, there are a whole host of ways for scoliosis patients to stay healthy and keep weight gain at bay.

 

Exercise caution

While it might seem like exercising with scoliosis is putting yourself on the fast track to a bad back, it can actually have the opposite effect - as long as you're careful.

Staying active can be beneficial for your body in a number of ways, helping you stay slim and trim while also keeping your body limber and flexible.

Being smart about the exercises you choose can make a huge difference, so be sure to exercise caution before you exercise your body.

In the weight room, heavy deadlifts are obviously not a good choice for someone with spinal issues. The same goes for other back-heavy exercises, like good-mornings and power cleans. Meanwhile, lower-body exercises like squats and lunges can also put indirect pressure on your spine.

Exercises to Avoid If You Have Scoliosis >>

Even some yoga positions, such as the cobra pose, can cause your vertebrae to rotate beyond the point of comfort. Be smart and avoid exercises that are likely to put considerable strain on your spine.

Strengthening your core can be a great way to alleviate discomfort, while regular stretching can also help to reduce back pain.

 

Young at heart

Running can put a lot of stress on the spine, jarring the body every time your feet hit the ground. As such, going out for a jog or hitting the treadmill may be a bad idea - but that doesn't mean cardio is completely off the table.

Most gyms have elliptical trainers (cross trainers) that allow you to exercise in a fluid motion without the jarring effect of running. Similarly, the stair climber is also a good way to get your cardio fix while reducing the impact on your spine.

Another great way to maintain and improve cardiovascular fitness with scoliosis is swimming. The buoyancy of the water minimises impact on the joints while still providing resistance, making it the ideal cardio exercise for scoliosis sufferers.

Swimming with Scoliosis >>

That being said, these exercises can be challenging for people with severe scoliosis, particularly those with reduced lung capacity. If you are unable to complete the above exercises, it may be worth considering less strenuous options, such as walking or aqua aerobics.

 

Smoke signals

If you're a smoker, another great way to stay in shape is to - you guessed it - give up smoking.

Quitting smoking can help improve lung capacity by as much as 10% within nine months, and this can help considerably when it comes to exercise. Qutting will also improve your circulation, providing additional energy and reducing fatigue.

However, quitting smoking isn't without its challenges. In addition to being a notoriously hard habit to break, it can also lead to some initial weight gain.

This is due to the fact that smoking suppresses your appetite and speeds up your metabolism. Meanwhile, it can be tempting to use food as a replacement for cigarettes - many ex-smokers find themselves snacking to fill the void.

That being said, while you may gain weight at first, giving up smoking will pay dividends in the long run - both in the gym and from a pain standpoint. A 1999 study by the Division of Clinical Epidemiology at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal found that smoking can exacerbate back pain, particularly in scoliosis sufferers. All the more reason to bin the cigs!

 

You are what you eat

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, diet plays a huge role in weight management. Even with plenty of exercise, you can't out-train a bad diet - so be sensible when it comes to junk food and unhealthy snacks.

If your scoliosis is severe and limits your ability to exercise, a healthy diet is vital in maintaining a healthy weight. Removing exercise from the equation puts you at a disadvantage to begin with, making a healthy diet all the more important.

What's more, certain foods are beneficial for reducing scoliosis symptoms, while others can only amplify those symptoms. Food and drinks that are rich in salt, sugar or caffeine can have a negative effect on calcium absorption, while alcohol can also contribute to poor bone density.

Avoid foods rich in additives, such as ready meals and fast food. Meanwhile, try to limit your consumption of soft drinks, tea, coffee and alcohol. Eating organic meals and fresh fruit and veg will give your body a fighting chance of fat loss, while also giving you a simultaneous boost in the bone department.

Best Diet for Scoliosis >>

If you would like to explore the possibility of non-surgical treatment for your scoliosis, please contact the Scoliosis SOS Clinic to arrange a consultation.

Job interview

Whether you're applying for a job, sitting in an interview or getting ready for your first day, if you have a medical condition like scoliosis, you may be wondering whether you ought to let your employer know about it.

Read on to find out more about what you are - and aren't - obliged to share with the people you work for. Please note that the information in this article pertains to UK law only - the law may be different where you live.

 

The legalities

The Equality Act 2010 was passed to help protect jobseekers from discrimination. It forbids employers from asking questions about your health or sickness record before they offer you a job.

As a result of this legislation, you are not required to disclose any health information at either the application or interview stage. If your potential employer does ask any questions about your health and you are then turned down for the role, you may have grounds for unlawful discrimination.

On the other hand, disclosing information after you've received a job offer may be beneficial, as employers have to make reasonable adjustments for people who disclose health issues that are protected under the aforementioned Equality Act.

 

The application process

When you're applying for jobs, you do not need to mention any illnesses or disabilities on your CV, even if they were the reason you left a previous role. If your medical conditions have created gaps in your employment history, there are ways that you can fill these in with activities such as periods of study, working on your own projects, or temp work.

However, if medical conditions have contributed to extensive or repeated gaps in your resumé, you may wish to omit employment dates from your CV altogether and replace them with the length of time you worked within each role.

 

The interview

During your interview, you can decide how much you wish to say about your medical condition(s). If you do have any noticeable gaps in your work history, prepare an explanation that doesn't disclose any health issues. You can use 'personal reasons' as justification for leaving a role, but make sure these are framed in a positive way that matches what you're now applying for.

Focus on why you want the role and how your skills and abilities will enable you to make a meaningful contribution.

 

FURTHER READING: Can You Work with Scoliosis?

 

If you feel that your scoliosis is preventing you from following your preferred career path, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic may be able to help. Get in touch to arrange a consultation.

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Calendar with menstruation date circled

Idiopathic scoliosis tends to start developing between the ages of 10 and 15 - in other words, around puberty. Unfortunately, this is also when most young girls start menstruating.

As many women will tell you, this stage of your life can make you feel insecure and confused even without the added complication of a curved spine. If you're developing idiopathic scoliosis at the same time, it can make those negative feelings even more intense.

Will scoliosis affect my periods?

There has been very little formal scientific research into how or why scoliosis affects menstruation, although we do have plenty of anecdotal accounts from girls with scoliosis who claim to have experienced irregular periods.

That being said, there is some research to suggest that girls with idiopathic scoliosis may (on average) start having periods slightly later than girls without scoliosis.

The female body can be confusing at the best of times, and the experience of one girl with scoliosis might be completely different from the next. If you do feel that your period is irregular, speak to your GP to see what they can do to help you.

Does scoliosis increase period pain?

It has been suggested that scoliosis can amplify the amount of period pain one experiences. Brooklyn Abortion Clinic lists scoliosis among a number of skeletal conditions that may increase feelings of period pain.

It's not especially clear why this should be the case, but it may have something do with the amount of pressure placed the spine as your uterus contracts and swells during menstruation. This, along with hormonal changes, is what causes back pain even for girls with healthy spines when they're menstruating, so it stands to reason that it could be even worse for girls who already experience back pain as a result of scoliosis.

Do you feel like scoliosis is interfering with your life, causing you pain and making you feel insecure? If so, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic may be able to help.

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