Journey Through Scoliosis - PIH Health - Whittier, CA

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Healthy Living Online

Published on July 13, 2015

photo of a spine with scoliosis

My Daughter’s Journey with Scoliosis

When my daughter was about six years old, her pediatrician mentioned that she saw a slight difference in her shoulder placement while performing a routine physical exam. She suggested that I keep an eye on it as she progressed towards puberty as sometimes that was a sign of scoliosis. Nothing ever seemed different or off to me so I didn’t give it much thought. About five years later her new pediatrician mentioned the same thing during a routine physical and this time wrote a prescription for x-rays of her spine.

The x-ray showed that my daughter’s spine looked like a giant question mark. But to look at her back…you would never know. She was diagnosed with Idiopathic Scoliosis. This type of scoliosis usually occurs after the age of ten and is more common with girls than boys according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases1.

She had a 48 degree curve in her spine and was immediately fitted with two different types of braces. The first brace was worn 20 hours a day. The second brace she tried was to be worn while she slept. We had follow up appointments every few months and were amazed to see her curve progressing. She went from a 48 degree curve to a 60 degree curve in just a few months.

I will never forget the moment when her orthopedic surgeon came in to tell us that it was time to schedule surgery. I can still hear him say the words, “Boo-boo…it’s time to fix your back.” He was looking directly at her and explained to her that it was time to fix the problem and that he was going to take great care of her. Her scoliosis was becoming “life-threatening” as her spine was growing towards her organs and rib cage.

Girl playing LaCrosse after surgery to fix her scoliosisMy daughter had a nine-hour surgery to correct her spine two years after her diagnosis. Her doctors inserted a metal rod from the top of her back to her tailbone as well as brackets going across the spine from top to bottom. I feel so fortunate that her pediatrician checked for scoliosis at her yearly physical. I never thought things would be the same for her but after a six month recovery process; she was completely back to normal. She is now a junior in high school and her surgery has not slowed her down. She has been the varsity goalie on her school’s lacrosse team since her freshman year. She was named All League MVP Goalie for the last two years and was also selected as a goalie for the Orange County Girl’s National Lacrosse team. I never imagined this happening prior to her successful recovery!

A pediatrician or family physician can diagnose scoliosis the following ways:

Medial history – Does it run in the family? Is there another problem that could be causing the spine to curve? Was there a previous injury?

Physical exam - The doctor checks if the patient’s shoulders are level, whether the head is centered, and whether opposite sides of the body look level. The doctor also examines the back muscles while the patient is bending forward to see if one side of the rib cage is higher than the other.

X-ray evaluation – An x-ray of the spine can confirm the diagnosis of scoliosis. The doctor measures the curve on the x-ray image. He or she finds the vertebrae at the beginning and end of the curve and measures the angle of the curve.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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