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Scoliosis: Bent Spine

Scoliosis Home Check

diagram showing the different types of scoliosis
Scoliosis, from the Latin, ‘bent.’ Bent spine. That describes it best.

If you remember when you were in junior high, you’d be marched down to the cafeteria and the school nurse would have everyone bend over to check for this. That’s a crude evaluation but it DID catch severe cases. I asked the school nurse in the North St. Paul Maplewood district how many cases she found per year. She said about 5 – 7. The incidence is 5%. Of 10,000 students, that should be 50 or so per year. Many times people are surprised to learn they have scoliosis in their 20s and 30s because “no one has ever told me before.”

Technically, scoliosis is a 15 degree bend in the spine. There is usually more than one. If it goes to the right in low back, it will by necessity have to curve back to the left somewhere above that to stay balanced. That’s the problem. The apex of the curve, the concavities of the curve, puts pressure on the nerves there.

So much so that people with significant scoliosis live shorter lives than people who don’t have a “bent spine.” This is why it is critical to have your kids evaluated.  And at school, is not an evaluation. Nor is at a pediatrician’s office an evaluation. The people who know spines are chiropractors and orthopedic surgeons. If I were choosing one of those…

Speaking of surgery. You likely know people who have steel rods in their spine. This is so strange that there is systemic bias in the insurance industry against paying your chiropractic bills, but they will pay $60,000 or so for spinal surgery. Why? Because a bent spine shortens your life. Everyone knows this. Surgery is undertaken when that bend gets in the 45-degree range. But, what about the damage at 30 degrees? Or 20 or 10?   Are we to wait with our kids until the damage gets that great, and THEN it’s deemed coverable by health plans? That industry is crazy. I can’t fix that.

What we CAN fix and do is make sure that you and your kids are living their best life. That means regular checkups, like you take them to the dentist to make sure their teeth are healthy. Your spine has way more influence over your life than your teeth. I love dentists and what they do, however the spine is the gateway to overall health. That’s the window of influence that determines how your life plays out.

So, here’s the school check you can do at home because they’re no longer doing it:

  • Have the child stand in front of you facing away from you, arms relaxed at their side.
  • First, check the space between their elbow and their flank. It should be equal on both sides.
  • Next, check the shoulder height comparing right and left. They should be level. Then, the ears (earrings make this easy) and any head tilt.
  • Next, have the child bend forward and touch hands to the floor. You want to focus on the low back that is level from one side to the other and then in particular, the shoulder blades. If one is sticking up or the whole rib cage is sticking up, that’s scoliosis. Bent spine.

Your next step is to make an appointment to correct it. As I said, it has lifelong consequences. As an early teen, 50% of them can be corrected.   As an adult, almost none can be.

Severe cases cause clothes to fit funny and you would notice at the beach, the torso off-center of the hips.

Because of where the curves are and what nerves are affected, scoliosis frequently causes sensitive stomach and menstrual problems.   If that’s happening, it is urgent that the problem gets some attention right away.

If your child hasn’t been checked, please contact us to schedule a time to do so.

Blessings,

Dr. Barrett's signature

 

 

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