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Scoliosis Screening in Adolescents

Dr. John Maddox, Pentucket pediatrician and Haverhill School Physician reminds us that June is Scoliosis Awareness month. Scoliosis is an exaggerated curve to the spine, which can lead to deformity, pain and compression of the heart and lungs. Scoliosis can progress quickly during a growth spurt, so screening is another reason to have an annual well visit for adolescents. The provider will examine the patient carefully and sometimes order a painless x-ray. Scoliosis is more common in girls and when there is a positive family history. Generally, the key ages for early detection are 10-12 years for girls and 13-14 years for boys. (School nurses screen all students in grades 5-9.)

Most scoliosis cases do not progress rapidly and can be monitored every 6 months. Those that do exhibit rapid progression benefit from bracing and scoliosis-specific exercises. Braces today are much better than the full-body casts of old; they often fit inconspicuously under a teenager’s clothing. In fact the most popular brace used today is called the Boston brace! The ultimate goal is to avoid the need for surgery.

Here at Pentucket, we are fortunate to have a close relationship with scoliosis experts at Mass General Brigham’s orthopedic department to help with managing our cases.

Keeping the spine and the rest of the body healthy has been highlighted recently with all the remote learning and screen time imposed upon us during COVID. Now that the vaccines are so successful, we can all enjoy becoming more active again. So celebrate Scoliosis Awareness Month with some swimming and simple stretching exercises, which are particularly helpful for good posture!