Scoliosis Awareness Month :: Avoid a Too-Late Diagnosis

We partnered with Children's of Alabama to bring parents this great information. This is sponsored content.

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month, and Birmingham Moms Blog has partnered with Children’s of Alabama to tell you everything you need to know about this medical condition, signs to look for in your children, as well as treatment. If you’ve ever read my post about Diastasis Recti (DR), then you know I have scoliosis. Unfortunately, I wasn’t diagnosed until I was in my 30s, well past puberty (obviously!), and well past the window for scoliosis treatment. Journey along with me to arm yourself with information for your sons and daughters so they can avoid a too-late diagnosis.

What IS Scoliosis?

scoliosis diagnosis takes place using x-raysJust what IS scoliosis? The Children’s of Alabama website defines scoliosis as “an abnormal side-to-side curvature of the spine that causes it to form more of an ‘S’ or ‘C’ shape rather than a straight line. Scoliosis usually occurs during the growth spurt just before puberty.”

I spoke with Angela Doctor, a registered nurse and the School Scoliosis Screening Program Coordinator for Children’s of Alabama. She told me the Alabama State Department of Education and the Alabama Department of Public Health require that public schools in Alabama offer and provide scoliosis screening for male and female students in grades 5 through 9 annually. Usually it is Doctor herself who will administer your adolescent’s school scoliosis screening.

Three Types of Scoliosis

Did you know that 2-3% of the population has scoliosis? That’s about 6-9 million people, and it occurs in every race and gender, although females tend to be more susceptible to curve progression. While the cause of scoliosis is unknown (however, genetics can play a factor), common myths such as heavy backpacks and poor posture have been disproven.
  1. The most common type of scoliosis is adolescent idiopathic, which occurs during the period of rapid spinal growth. 
  2. Scoliosis can also be congenital, caused by a defect before birth, or
  3. neuromuscular scoliosis seen in children with neuromuscular diseases like muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy.

Possible Signs

Doctor looks for the following at the school scoliosis screenings, and parents can also be on the lookout for the following tell-tale signs in their children: 
  • Uneven shoulders, or one shoulder blade is more prominent than the other;
  • Uneven waist and hips (look for the skin folding on just one side or uneven skin folds);
  • When bending forward, one side of the back is higher than the other.

Don’t Panic — There is Help!

Doctor said when she suspects a student has scoliosis, she refers him or her to the pediatrician. The pediatrician then performs a more in-depth evaluation including x-rays. Treatment generally includes a period of observation of the spine and/or a back brace worn at night until the growth plates close.

Scoliosis treatment can involve surgery.In more extreme cases, the pediatrician will refer the patient to an orthopedic doctor if surgery is necessary. As scary as having metal rods inserted into your spine sounds, remember that even real-life princesses have scoliosis surgery. Did you know England’s Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter, Princess Eugenie, had scoliosis surgery when she was twelve? She even made sure her 2018 wedding gown was designed so as to proudly show off her scar! 

A nightly back brace can halt the progression of the spine curvature. If scoliosis is not found early and treated before the growth plates close during adolescence, the spine curvature will continue to grow worse, potentially causing long-term issues.

That’s why Doctor stresses the importance of early detection. So be sure to sign those school permission slips for the annual school scoliosis screening!

Already having a good relationship with a pediatrician you trust is also key, so when and if the time comes for scoliosis treatment, you’ll be ready.

You’re Not Alone

For most children, a scoliosis diagnosis is not life-altering. Once treatment is completed, people with scoliosis can go on to live full and active lives. But remember, the key is identifying and diagnosing the condition as early as possible while the spine is still growing. For more information, watch this Children’s of Alabama video or contact the Children’s of Alabama Orthopedic Department at 205-638-9146
Scoliosis screening coordinator - Angela Doctor
Angela Doctor, BSN, RN, CPN

Thank you very much to Angela Doctor for providing this information to Birmingham families!


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