Scoliosis is defined as abnormal lateral curvature of the spine. It affects 6 million to 9 million people in the U.S., according to Dr. Amer Samdani, chief of surgery at Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia and an expert on scoliosis.
The three main categories of scoliosis are mild, moderate, and severe, and each gets progressively worse over time. The curve becomes larger and eventually can start to compress on internal organs such as the lungs, abdominal contents, and the heart.
Dr. Samdani explains that warning signs include:
- Back pain
- One hip sticking out farther than the other
- Uneven shoulders
Dr. Samdani says the goal is to keep more children in the mild and moderate categories to provide more treatment options. Mild and moderate cases can be treated with a back brace and different levels of exercise. As children enter the severe category, the treatment options become limited to just one: surgery.
Although a person of any age can experience scoliosis, the condition is most common in children ages 10 to 15. “It can worsen during these years because kids are going through puberty and hitting growth spurts,” says Dr. Samdani. “That is when it’s critical to keep a close eye on them.”
Shriner Hospital’s Free App Helps Parents Check for Scoliosis
No parent wants to see a child undergo a major surgery, so why not prevent it? Adding a scoliosis test to your child’s back-to-school routine can help catch the condition early and avoid surgery.
“With the app, we really wanted parents and families to have ownership and more control of being able to detect if their child has a curvature,” Dr. Samdani said.
The app is designed with an easy-to-follow, step-by-step format that allows parents to check for signs of scoliosis in the palm of their hand.
To use the app, have your child bend over and reach for his or her toes until the back is parallel to the ground. Run the phone along the spine, as if you are scanning it. The app will tell you if there is an abnormality or if what it has detected is normal.
Please note that the app cannot diagnose scoliosis. It can only recommend if you should seek professional medical attention.
According to Dr. Samdani, “Screening should be done once a year or every six months, so the goal for this app was to put parents in control.” The app’s reminder feature alerts parents when it’s time for another check.
“In today’s world we all have busy lives, and this is one step that we can take to help simplify this concern,” Dr. Samdani says. “It’s safe, it’s simple, and it only takes a couple of minutes.”