Scoliosis is a term used to explain a sideways deformity of the spine that is most usually diagnosed during adolescent years, either just before or in the early stages of puberty.
This condition currently affects around 2-3% of the population, but specialists believe numbers could realistically be much higher.
For those who do have a diagnosis, however, knowing how to monitor the condition and what treatment avenues to explore can be overwhelming, especially when you’re doing so on behalf of your child.
One of the most common options discussed by specialists are scoliosis braces, devices intended to be used during the growing process to prevent a curvature from worsening.
Although they will not cure or straighten your child’s spine, they can be extremely beneficial in preventing serious scoliosis-related complications when your child reaches adulthood.
With that being said, not everyone who receives a diagnosis of scoliosis will need one—and some won’t need one until years after their initial diagnosis.
If you aren’t sure whether you may need to explore this avenue for your child, here are five signs that your child might benefit from such a device.
Your Child Is Complaining Of Discomfort Or Back Pain
According to HealthcareWeekly, children are far less likely than adults to experience back pain as a side effect of their scoliosis.
If your child begins to complain of it, or generalized discomfort, it could be a serious sign that their condition is worsening and they need intervention.
If this is the case, it’s always worth visiting a doctor or your specialist to talk about the next steps and receive examinations that will reveal for sure whether a brace is needed or not.
Their Hips And Ribs Are Out Of Proportion
If your child is younger, a good way of monitoring the progress of their curvature is by monitoring the placement of their hips and ribs.
This is because these two parts of the skeleton, other than the spine, to be changed as a result of the curvature worsening, especially in children.
Monitoring this with older children or teenagers is a harder task because you aren’t involved in their personal care, but in extreme cases, it could be obvious through clothes.
Even if it isn’t, abiding by the regular monitoring appointments set up by your child’s specialist should help to alert you to this if it is a problem.
If their hips and ribs are out of proportion, appearing higher up on one side of the body than the other, it could be a sign that they need intervention in the form of a brace to prevent further deterioration.
Your Child Walks With A Gait
If your child is experiencing a milder form of scoliosis, chances are there are very little outward symptoms to go on at least initially.
If you notice that they are walking with a gait, or tilted, then it could be a sign that their condition is worsening and the curvature needs to be stopped from progressing further.
Feet specialists say this happens because one leg is functionally longer than the other, and the gait occurs as a way of compensating for the spinal curvature.
Not intervening could lead to serious problems, and may mean more serious options like surgery need to be considered down the line.
They Have A Curvature Of Between 20 and 45 degrees
There has long been a debate about when a scoliosis brace is most successful, with various studies having looked into this with conflicting results.
While it’s generally agreed that braces are best for smaller curvatures, there are a few different theories about when the cut-off point for this treatment option should be.
One study into females with scoliosis, for example, found that braces worked best in treating curvatures of less than 35 degrees.
Another study extended this, saying that certain types of braces, like the Boston Brace, could help prevent the worsening of the curvature in scoliosis cases up to 45 degrees.
The results of these studies mean the criteria for a scoliosis brace will vary depending on the specialist you see and your child’s independent factors.
With that being said, it’s generally safe to assume that a brace could be an option if your child’s curvature is currently between the 20 and 45 degree mark.
Your Child’s Symptoms Continue To Worsen As They Grow Older
Research shows that most children are diagnosed with scoliosis by the time they are 15 years old, with this trend starting from the age of about 10.
This means that children have a significant amount of time before they finish growing after receiving their diagnosis, during which period the curvature can worsen significantly.
If you have begun to notice a deterioration as they continue through their growth spurts, or the child themselves has complained of worsening symptoms of scoliosis, it might be time to consider a brace.
Although it can be a big deal to children of this age range, wearing a brace can help to reduce the severity of symptoms. More importantly, it can help stabilize them, reducing the chances of the condition continuing to impact the individual’s quality of life.
The brace itself can also be used to improve outcomes of high-risk adolescent scoliosis patients, reducing the need for more serious treatment options like surgery once growth has stopped.
Receiving a diagnosis of scoliosis for your child can be an extremely scary time, but it’s important to remember that treatment options do not need to be decided overnight.
The signs that we have mentioned above, like walking with a gait and having disproportionate hips and ribs, are also things that tend to worsen over time.
This gives you plenty of time to decide on the next steps for their treatment, at a pace that is comfortable for both you and the child with the condition.
It’s also important to mention that even if your child does exhibit the signs we’ve mentioned, there’s no certainty that a scoliosis brace will be the right step forward.
In fact, specialists say that just 30 percent of scoliosis patients will require bracing in their teen years, so while it’s good to be on the lookout, it’s not something you should take as a definite for your child.
Regardless of whether your child does end up engaging with this course of treatment, however, having all the facts is always the best way to go about making the right decision for you and your child.