Nothing can be more heartbreaking than to learn that an infant or child has a debilitating disease or ailment that will make life difficult for them. The benefit of early screening is in detecting the ailment before the symptoms become irreversible or before they require painful and oftentimes risky surgery. Spinal screenings for infants and children are one preventative measure parents can take to reduce the likelihood of later problems.
Spinal disorders include scoliosis, spina bifida, spinal muscular atrophy, dysplastic spondylolisthesis and the rare Klippel-Feil syndrome. Spinal disorders can result in difficulty with even the simplest tasks. However, they may also place the child at risk for poor lifelong health and complications that not only reduce the quality of life, but may shorten it significantly.
And the shape of the spine itself isn’t the only potential issue. For instance, a majority of children with spina bifida have been found to be allergic to latex. The strength of the allergy ranges from mild to life-threatening. This can require that hospital staff use latex-free gloves and instruments when the allergic patient is admitted. The sufferer needs to remain keenly aware of the materials they use in their everyday life to ensure they are also latex-free. And Spina bifida patients may also experience learning disabilities and poor cognitive flexibility.
Early detection can allow for early treatment and the elimination of many later complications. Spines can often be straightened. Infant screening is considered a best practice since earlier detection often allows physicians to monitor the situation and consider a wider range of less invasive therapies before the condition can progress. Childhood screening has been added in many school systems so that children with possible spinal conditions may be identified early enough to take preventative measures.
Management of scoliosis, for instance, can require physical therapy in its mildest form, or more aggressive treatments, such as occupational therapy, an orthopedic cast, a specialized back brace or, as a last resort, surgery. The orthopedic cast may come in the form of an EDF (elongation, de-rotation, flexion) cast to address the 3-dimensional nature of the condition.
Physiotherapy techniques, such as the Schroth method, have demonstrated significant results in improving the shape of scoliosis-affected spines, with both in-patient and out-patient exercises. Such techniques can prove particularly effective for small curvatures. When scoliosis curvatures exceed 30 degrees, physiotherapy may be combined with other methods to achieve the most benefit with the least amount of invasiveness.
The results of childhood spinal screenings, including those performed at schools, should not be taken as definitive proof of any spinal condition. They should be followed up by a specialist who can provide a more informed and accurate diagnosis. As with any problems related to the spine, a chiropractor is one of the best professionals you can consult in regard to the results of these screenings, and regular chiropractic visits are key to optimum spinal health.