Health Team

Watchful Parents Can Spot Scoliosis Early

Early detection offers an opportunity for less-invasive treatment, so observant parents can help their children a lot.

Posted Updated

RALEIGH, N.C. — Medical statistics show that one in 100 children develop scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine, and adolescent girls are seven times more likely than boys are to develop the condition. It can also affect organs such as the lungs, too.

Early detection offers less invasive treatment options than if doctors must try to correct the condition later on.

Sabrina Benson loves all sports, but she prefers the water.

“It helps with my scoliosis and helps comfort it,” she said.

Sabrina's mom, Diana Benson, noticed there was a problem a little over four years ago, when Sabrina was 10, so she had it checked out.

“And sure enough, she did have a curvature,” Diana said.

“Typically, it's in what we call the thoracic spine, so it's in the area where the rib cage is,” Dr. Keith Mankin, an orthopaedic pediatrician, said.

Mankin said there are telltale signs that even parents can spot.

There may be “a shift in the trunk. The balance of the body will be off a little bit,” Mankin said.

“When they're bending over is when you can kind of see it,” Diana Benson explained.

Severe cases of scoliosis, those that measure a curve of more than 40 degrees, require major surgery in which rods are used to straighten the spine.

Sabrina's curve was just short of 20 degrees at first, but it was getting worse. Mankin prescribed an “over-correcting” brace, worn at night.

“So she wore it 12 hours a day, every day. She was very faithful wearing this,” her mother said.

“She's actually improved in the brace,” Mankin said, “so now her curve is actually quite stable.”

Sabrina's early diagnosis and effective treatment means that she may never need surgery and can continue living the active life that she enjoys.

Doctors don't know exactly what causes scoliosis, but they belief there is a genetic factor involved. Scoliosis screening is now a routine part of most pediatricians’ physical exams.


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