Why are doctors seeing more cases of scoliosis in kids?

Scoliosis is usually caught early during doctor’s appointments and school screenings, but the pandemic has disrupted many of these exams.

ATLANTA — Doctors are calling on parents to keep an eye on their child’s spine during the pandemic after noticing an increase in the number of children showing signs of scoliosis.

The condition, characterized by curvature of the spine, typically progresses through the stages of child development when growth spurts occur, and experts fear cases that are normally caught early are being missed.

According to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, approximately 2-3% of children have scoliosis with approximately three million cases diagnosed each year. Most of these cases are normally caught early through pediatrician appointments and school screenings, but the pandemic has disrupted many routine checkups.

Dr. Nick Fletcher of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta tells 11Alive’s Liza Lucas that Children’s sees the impact of these missed testing opportunities.

“We’re seeing a good number of kids coming in with bigger curves,” said Fletcher, vice chief of orthopedics at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in Egleston. “There’s usually a common response from parents who are sort of shocked, and they’re like, how could I miss that?”

Although there is a range of treatments for scoliosis, from physiotherapy and braces to surgery, missing the condition in the early stages can have a detrimental impact on the organ system.

“In very small children, if we miss that, they can actually have lung problems and decreased lung function,” Fletcher explained. “As children get older, we tend to notice things that in their formative years may be just a cosmetic deformity. Some issues of pain and discomfort, but still once, as they get older, it will lead to other organ system problems like lung problems.”

While Fletcher urges families to make routine medical appointments, he also said there are checks parents and caregivers can do at home that can make a difference.

“I think the most important thing you can do as a parent is just look back at your kids,” he said, adding that he checks his own kids’ backs every four to six. month.

The critical period for detecting scoliosis, Fletcher said, is 5th through 8th grade, a time when many children experience significant growth spurts.

The six common signs of scoliosis include:

  1. Uneven shoulders and shoulder blades
  2. Unequal distance between arms and body when standing
  3. Uneven hips
  4. Ribs protruding or protruding in one area
  5. Muscles prominent in the lower back or bulging on one side
  6. Uneven folds of skin at the waist

Doctors emphasize that early intervention is essential. For more information or instructions on the Adams Forward Bend Test, visit Children’s.

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