If your child has been diagnosed with a curvature of the spine, or scoliosis, it's important to begin treatment early. When detected early, non-invasive treatments will likely be effective in straightening the spine without the need for surgery. Here is why early treatment is critical to your child's development and the most common non-invasive treatments used.
Rapid Growth Can Be a Help or Hindrance
Prior to puberty, your child's bones grow quickly. After puberty, the growth rate slows down as your child's body attains its adult shape and size. If your child has a curvature in the spine, it will become quickly exaggerated during the rapid growth phase. But if the spine is treated during this phase, it can be coaxed into growing straight. The longer one waits to start treatment, the harder it will be to get rid of the curve.
If the curve is allowed to continue, the shape of the spine will encroach on the developing internal organs. The lungs especially will be affected by the lack of space in the chest due to the shape of the spine. Children with untreated scoliosis can develop respiratory problems that stay with them into their adult lives.
Non-Invasive Treatments for Your Child's Spinal Curvature
These non-invasive treatments rely on an orthopaedic brace to hold the spine in the proper position as the child grows. These braces must be worn continuously and only taken off to bathe the child. As the child grows, adjustments must be made to the braces or new ones made to fit your child. The type of brace used depends on the location of the curve in the spine. Here are some of the options:
Thoraco-Lumbo-Sacral-Orthosis Brace ("Boston brace") - This is a fiberglass brace made from a mold of your child's body. There are two halves to this brace which secure around the child's body with Velcro straps. The brace rests on your child's pelvis and extends up to just under their arms. These braces are used to correct curves in the lower or central part of the spine.
Cervico-Thoraco-Lumbo-Sacral-Orthosis Brace ("Milwaukee brace") - This brace is used to correct curves in the upper spine or neck. It consists of metal bars that extend from a fiberglass piece that rests on the pelvis to underneath your child's chin. The bars are adjusted to hold the spine in the desired position as it develops.
If treated very early with these braces, the spine may grow normally so the child will need no additional support later in life. But if the spine has already developed a substantial curve and the child is not treated until their teenage years, there is little chance of the spine being straightened completely. If it is treated early and there are positive results, however, the child may need to wear a brace periodically, usually at night while sleeping, to prevent the spine from becoming more curved and causing problems in their adult life.
For more information and options for orthopaedic braces, talk with your doctor or other health specialist.