By Rosemary Marchese
Scoliosis in adolescents can easily ‘creep up’ on parents and teens. Summer may be the first time parents notice a change in the posture of their children with scoliosis. Or perhaps the adolescent themselves start to notice that clothes are not fitting well. For example:
- Swimmers are not fitting evenly on the hips.
- A singlet strap falls down on one side of the shoulder more so than the other side.
- They struggle to find clothes that ‘fit well’ due to asymmetries developing.
- Hot weather means they wear less layers of clothing making body parts visible more often in mirrors.
- Summer brings a longer summer holiday break – less focus on school brings more opportunities to notice subtle or large changes in posture.
Parents often report to us in the clinic that ‘all of a sudden’ they noticed a change in the posture of their child. This can come as a shock. It is likely however that
the scoliosis was developing for some time, however it is easy to ‘miss’ in teens and juveniles, particularly if they are independent and ‘busy’ children.
Remember that independent adolescents will dress themself, providing less opportunity for a parent to notice subtle changes in posture. That’s why summer is a great time to remind parents that scoliosis exists, particularly for parents who already have one child that is diagnosed with scoliosis. Scoliosis can run in families and so ensuring that siblings are screened is really important.
Scoliosis screening in schools does not exist in Australia. Empowering parents with knowledge of scoliosis signs and symptoms may help to minimise ‘missed’ cases.
As we are in a period of warmer weather, it’s a great time to remind parents to keep an eye out for changes in the posture of their children. The children will be wearing less clothing, perhaps even often in swimmers, and so it’s easier for changes, such as uneven hips or scapulae, to be noticed.
Tips to help parents
Suggestions for clinicians encouraging parents to screen their children may include:
- Look for asymmetries, such as uneven shoulder height, when the child is in swimmers.
- Look out for when clothing, such as shorts, ‘don’t quite fit’ evenly on each side.
- Performing the Adams Forward Bend test on their own child when the child is in swimmers.
- Listen carefully if the child suddenly reports that clothing is not fitting well on one particular side or they are struggling to find clothes that fit well.