Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Av 5766 - August 23, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

by Leah Raffles

Camp goes hand in hand with relaxation and fun. Is it a wonder, then, that as teenagers in camp, one of our favorite pastimes was massaging one another's back? It was fun and relaxing. One of the girls in our bunk wore a brace, not on her teeth but on her body — from the hips up to the neck. In those times, the brace was white and bulky and stuck out from the top of her clothes and made the poor girl look twice her size. She had a problem with her back: scoliosis was the word, if we were interested, and she could not remove her brace, not even for a good massage. Well, when one of the more knowledgeable girls in our group massaged my back, she stopped abruptly and exclaimed.

"You've got scoliosis, too."

"Yeah, I remember the doctor saying something like that a couple of years back."

I didn't wear a brace and one couldn't tell that I had the condition. So what makes one wear a brace and the other not?

First, let's backtrack a bit and see what exactly is scoliosis.

Hashem created every body with lots of curves. We have arches in our feet and a rounded head. The spine follows the same pattern. It arches at the top to round our shoulders and curves again at the bottom to give us that slight curve in the lower back. However, in about two percent of the population, the spine curves not only inward and outward, but also from side to side. The curves can be so severe that the spine forms a "S" or even a "C". This condition is called scoliosis.

Scoliosis usually develops in middle or late childhood. The cause is usually unknown. A young child with scoliosis will not complain because it is not yet painful; therefore, it is not easy to notice the problem. This can be tricky because the sooner one catches the condition the easier it is to treat.

Most doctors will give their patients a routine exam called the Adam's Forward Bend Test to rule out scoliosis. He will ask the child to stand with his feet together and to bend forward 90 degrees from the waist. The spine will be clearly visible and any asymmetry or abnormal curvature can be detected.

So what happens when the doctor suspects scoliosis?

If the child already finished growing and a mild case is discovered [a curve of less than 25 degrees], there is really nothing to do, but keep an eye on it. It will not affect his social, or physical activities in the least.

A more severe case is when the child is still growing and the curve in the spine is more pronounced. In this case, after the standard tests and x-rays, the doctor might put the child on observation or most probably on a brace. The brace does not cure the problem, but it prevents the curve from getting worse. The child will have to wear the brace from sixteen to twenty-three hours a day until he is fully grown.

The worst case scenario is when the curve in the spine is over 45 degrees. This is classified as severe and the doctor will most likely advise surgery. With the technology today, the surgery is relatively safe and effective.

It needs to be mentioned that there are adults who had scoliosis as children but were never treated. In this scenario, the curve in the spine may have progressed, about a degree per year. The spine should be kept under observation.

The condition can run in the family. If one member is diagnosed, the others should be screened regularly. It is also more prevalent among girls. A brace may be uncomfortable and the child may feel self-conscious. However, with the advances today, one can hardly tell that a brace is being worn under the clothing, and he may participate in a broad range of activities.

Contrary to what people think, exercises to strengthen the back and training oneself to stand straight will not help the condition.

How do we know if our child has or is developing scoliosis?

Look out for one of these signs:

* uneven shoulders or shoulder blades

* the rib cage is at different heights

* uneven waist

* elevated hip

* head not centered directly over the pelvic bone

* change in look or texture of the skin overlying the spine [dimple, hairy patches, color change]

* entire body leaning to one side

Scoliosis is a scary word. However, it is easily treated, although it cannot be prevented. The important thing is to observe, and may you never see these symptoms on your children.


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