Scoliosis in Children – improving posture is possible

Understanding Scoliosis in Children

Scoliosis is often associated with adulthood. A child with a hunchback? Unheard of? Unfortunately, an increasing number of schoolchildren are developing postural weaknesses in their spines. It’s well known that children are becoming less active and facing more academic pressure.

Scoliosis, or abnormal curvatures of the spine, develops over many years. The foundation for good posture is laid early in childhood. Healthy, upright posture requires movement and sufficient strength. The posture of the spine also reflects psychosocial factors, such as how comfortable a child feels within their family or among peers, whether they can assert themselves, or if they are under pressure and have little time for themselves. These psychosocial factors significantly impact posture, something we can observe in ourselves and others. Children need opportunities for active play, as well as firm rules and an environment that provides genuine recognition, friends, and support.

It’s not always about maintaining harmony. Children learn to position themselves and cope with conflicts both at home and with peers. You can often gauge a child’s resilience and energy to handle situations by looking at their spinal posture.

Scoliosis – One of the Oldest Orthopedic Conditions

The term “scoliosis” derives from the Greek word “skolios,” meaning “crooked.” It typically involves a sideways curvature of the spine.

Scoliosis might have emerged with the advent of sedentary human lifestyles, but is also related to malnutrition (out of poverty or unsufficient eating habits – often seen with young girls). Today, it is estimated that about 3-5% of the German population suffers from scoliosis, predominantly girls and women.

However, only 1 to 3 in 1,000 affected individuals require treatment, and many cases go unnoticed.

In fact, nobody has a “perfect” spine.

These curvatures often develop during growth spurts in puberty. Consider the following factors:
– Is the child less active than before? Do they still have enough balance to counteract their school routine (with a lot of sitting involved)?
– Are they in a phase of disinterest and lack enthusiasm for anything in their daily life?
– Are they lacking the self-confidence and joy that would give them the energy to cope with their daily challenges and maintain physical tension?
– What is the parents’ physical posture like? Children often imitate their parents’ posture.
– Adolescence is a time of reorientation for parents too: Mothers might no longer be fully occupied with childcare, and fathers or even mothers might be focusing on their careers. How are the parents doing? Can the child still look to them for guidance? Do they find joy and loving community in their parents? Do they have another real person or community, like a sports club, where they can find these essential needs for guidance, support, and stability?

These and many other factors can lead to changes in a child’s posture (as well as that of adults).

For Early Detection of Childhood Scoliosis do following:

Many parents notice their children’s curved spines, for example, during the summer at the pool or beach. When children bend over in a sandbox with bare backs, you can often see an unusual curvature.

Parents can also occasionally check their children’s backs at home by standing behind of the child as they bend forward and checking if both sides of the spine look symmetrical. Scoliosis may be present if one side of the ribs protrudes more than the other.

A good opportunity for detection is a check-up with a pediatrician, between the ages of 12 and 14, precisely when puberty’s growth spurts begin. However, according to the nationwide “Healthcare Atlas Germany” study, only 43% of teenagers attend this check-up.

How is Scoliosis Treated?

Depending on the severity of the curvature, there are various treatment methods. For a scoliosis angle of less than 20° (“Cobb angle”), regular physiotherapy can effectively address the curvature. Various techniques can be used to improve a child’s posture.

It’s beneficial to nurture or further develop a child’s enthusiasm for movement. Working with a resource-oriented approach can prevent a middle-aged person from attributing their back pain to scoliosis diagnosed during their youth in 35 years’ time.

In severe cases of scoliosis, a doctor might suggest surgery. However, this is very rare in children, as scoliosis is usually detected early and can often be successfully treated with intensive, non-invasive training and treatment methods.

Counteracting Scoliosis by Being a Role Model

The spine is flexible and constantly subjected to various forces. A better term for this structure in our upper body might be “spinal snake.” Our spine is not a rigid “column” but rather a series of movable vertebrae intelligently connected by countless fibers, similar to a sailboat mast, but much more flexible.

Many adults, after years of limited spinal mobility, develop a stiff spine, which often becomes the default “normal.” In contrast, dancers and other flexible individuals maintain a snake-like, healthy spine even in old age.

We can counteract poor posture and scoliosis with a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Encouraging daily movement in our children and setting a good example ourselves is crucial. Children unconsciously imitate their role models’ behavior and posture.

If you provide especially younger children with opportunities to explore their bodies in various ways, they will usually do so without much prompting.

Here are some simple ideas to implement:
– Climbing wall in the children’s room
– Rope hanging from the ceiling or a bunk bed
– Play bed with climbing features
– Vertical fabric for aerial activities
– Athletic rings
– Trapeze
– Frequent walking, hiking, and swimming