Scoliosis is like any other illness: the sooner you identify it, the better your chances of treating it. Since the spine becomes more rigid as a person gets older, the sooner someone is diagnosed with scoliosis, the sooner they can begin a proper course of treatment that can control, or even reverse, the effects of scoliosis. Diagnosing scoliosis is easy, but identifying it pre-diagnosis can be surprisingly difficult. In fact, it will often go unnoticed, for many years, in young patients. Many cases aren’t identified until the patient has gone through puberty, and the curve becomes more noticeable.
When you or your child has been diagnosed with scoliosis, the options can seem painfully limited. Patients who are unwilling to accept the typical solutions—bracing, surgery or “wait and see”—often struggle to find an alternative treatment that stops scoliosis progression without permanently damaging the spine.
Being diagnosed – or having a child who is diagnosed – with idiopathic scoliosis can be a disconcerting, even scary, experience. After the diagnosis, you’ll be faced with lots of questions, and you’ll be uncertain about the future. What steps should you take? What steps should you avoid?
Finding the right scoliosis treatment can be a long and frustrating journey. First you get the diagnosis and all the overwhelming emotions that come with it. Then you’re presented with the potential treatment options—usually bracing, surgery or “wait and see.” Finally there’s the endless digging, online or at the library, to find a better alternative.
Treating scoliosis often feels like a race against an opponent with a head start. Once curves start progressing, parents and doctors can easily get caught up in reacting to the spine’s changes without ever managing to get ahead of the curve.
Unfortunately, scoliosis treatment for kids tends revolves around a single-minded focus—preventing curve progression—without full consideration for the child’s long-term quality of life. While traditional treatments can achieve some initial curve reduction, over the course of a lifetime they can also cause significant harm. Bracing, for example, might seem like the best course of action now, when your most pressing concern is to avoid reaching the surgical threshold, but what about 25 years from now? Or 50 years?
If your child has just been diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, you’re probably trying to figure out what to do next. This decision is probably made more difficult by the fact that you’re probably still trying to separate scoliosis fact from fiction – and unfortunately, your doctor might not be up to date on all the current realities about scoliosis. There are a series of myths about scoliosis, and they’re often used by doctors to justify expensive, invasive spinal fusion surgery, even though it might not be the best option for your child.
We all remember the shock, horror, and complete disbelief of the tragic events that took place in the United States on September 11, 2001. Most of us simply couldn’t wrap our collective heads around the very idea or concept that people would hijack jet planes and convert them into 600 mph weapons of mass destruction. Immediately, fingers were pointed and blamed assigned to the various intelligence agencies whom missed opportunity after opportunity to prevent the attacks, yet failed to do so. Years later the “9/11 report” concluded the biggest failure with in the intelligence community was simply “a failure of imagination.” The intel analysists had simple become so complacent they couldn’t even imagine a “low tech” threat causing so much harm.
After years of scoliosis treatment, 16-year-old Rachel Rabkin Peachman’s curves had stabilized and her spine had fully grown. At 45 degrees, she had narrowly escaped surgery. Her doctor told her she was done.
But she wasn’t.
“I’ve discovered in the years since that scoliosis is not something you endure and outgrow, like pimples and puberty,” she says. “Now, at the ripe age of 38, I find myself with a 55-degree upper curve, a 33-degree lower curve, consistent pain—and no standard treatment to follow.”
Time and time again, parents sit across from me in my office describing the gut wrenching experience they endured during their child’s first brace fitting. Watching their child melt down in tears, complain about not being able to breath, and seeing the panic in their eyes when the doctor tells them they have to wear it 23 hours a day for the next 2-3 years. I also feel a sense of how disturbed these parents felt at that very moment, because they almost always seem to be looking straight through me as they tell the story.
They call him Lightning Bolt.
At age 20, he bolted through New York to set a world record—running the 100-meter sprint in just 9.72 seconds. The next year he shattered his own record and won his first of nine Olympic gold medals. Now, a decade later, Usain Bolt is considered the fastest runner ever timed.