By Dr. Mandy Dietz

As a parent who once sat in front of a computer googling “scoliosis treatments,” I know the shock and fear that follows a scoliosis diagnosis for your child. It’s difficult to know where to start, who to see, and what treatments to trust. As a doctor who now specializes in scoliosis, I can tell you, there have been some key pieces to ensuring better outcomes to a scoliosis diagnosis.

Early Detection 

As parents, we rarely recognize when there’s a postural change in our children, unless it’s significant or something out of the ordinary occurs.  Even then, it’s tough for the untrained eye to see it. It’s extremely important to have children checked by a trained professional between the ages of 10 and 14 at least once a year. If you have a history of scoliosis in your family or other medical conditions, start screening at age eight. Early detection can mean the difference between a brace or requiring surgery. The younger the child, the earlier in their growth, and the smaller the curve, the better the outcome. It is difficult to change scoliosis curvatures once they’ve progressed and the child is older, which can lead to more debilitating conditions throughout their adult life.  

What to Look For  

It’s important to have tools without feeling that the burden of identification is solely yours. Sometimes doctors can miss even a large scoliosis, so it’s important to know some basics. Changes in posture such as uneven shoulders, hips, or shoulder blades requires further investigation. If your child is constantly sitting in an abnormal position, such as always leaning to one side or hunched forward and unable to correct it, it could be related to a change in their spine.  Symptoms such as headaches, pain in their back, neck, or hips, and/or other explained symptoms, especially related to menstruation or digestion, indicate a need for further evaluation. Common things you may notice: clothes fall off one side of their shoulder, pants sit unlevel on their hips, or they carry their backpack differently. Any of these things should prompt you to look for other signs and consult a professional. Diagnosis is relatively easy and noninvasive, so any concern warrants a follow up.  

Who do we see? 

Your child’s pediatrician, family doctor, or chiropractor can check your child for scoliosis. Sports physicals are a place for spinal evaluation as well.  Other professionals such as physical therapists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants are trained to identify spinal changes such as scoliosis. Their level of training and clinical experience will vary, which is why it’s important to seek further evaluation by a specialist if you feel something is abnormal in any way. 

A Scoliosis Diagnosis 

Scoliosis can occur on its own or in conjunction with other medical conditions and have a wide range of severity and presentations.  Depending on the severity, a brace or surgery may be required. In any diagnosis, an initial X-ray evaluation and proper follow up X-rays are necessary and, in some cases, MRI and/or CT imaging. It’s very important to get an accurate evaluation.  Any scoliosis diagnosis given without proper X-ray imaging is a red flag and the opinion of another provider should be sought out. Do not wait! The quicker an X-ray evaluation is done, the sooner you can seek out treatment options and typically, there will be more options available.   

Treatment

Depending on your specific diagnosis, treatment may mean observation/proactive treatment, bracing, or surgery.  When detected early enough, proactive treatment may prevent future braces and/or surgery. If a brace is necessary, we provide patients with a three dimensional and corrective Scolibrace. Clinically, we have seen this 3D brace provide correction in cases where a stabilizing Boston brace has not. For patients with smaller curvatures, we provide a treatment protocol that has shown to give correction without bracing.  In most cases, a team of care providers is essential to meeting the goals of the patient and family. We work with professionals across the United States and Australia to provide the care needed for your family. Every case is individual. If we cannot provide the care that’s needed, we help direct you to the provider that can.

Dr. Mandy Dietz is a chiropractor at Life Expressions Family Chiropractic & Scoliosis Center in Bismarck. She has been providing scoliosis care to patients and their families for more than six years.