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Old 01-03-2007, 05:38 PM   #1
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Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

My son was diagnosed about 3 years ago with mild scoliosis. He was 15 at the time. The doctor diagnosed him with it after seeing him bend over and checked for the curvature.

Until recently, my son hasn't been in any real pain other than the occasional backache from overdoing it. He's never had to take meds for it until the last couple of weeks. He's been taking ibuprophen.

We lost our insurance coverage a few years ago and my son's doctor has retired. I told our new doctor about my son's diagnosis the first time he saw her about 3 months ago. She didn't check his back.

Now he's complaining more and more with back pain and I'm getting more and more concerned. Tonight, he went to bed at 5pm saying he was tired and his back hurt. I think his sleep is being affected by his pain though he hasn't told me this.

Now here comes the questions:

Are there any tests (other than the visual check) to diagnose scoliosis? X-ray?

What are the possible complications from scoliosis?

Were any of you diagnosed with this as mild and it got worse over time?

Are there any exercises (or anything else) my son can do to slow the progression?

Does this progress?

And if it does, how bad can it get? I want to know but don't want to know. It's a question I'd lie to know the answer to but I'm afraid of the answer.

Thanks.

Barb
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Old 01-03-2007, 07:21 PM   #2
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

Hi Barb,

I'm not sure, but from what I've read, you could do research on "Idiopathic Scoliosis". It may help you understand some about scoliosis.

I believe that an Mri would be able to determine the extent of scoliosis. I have mild scoliosis to the left, but have never felt anything from it. Atleast not that I'm aware of. I've just read it on my MRI's.

Do you have insurance now? If so, schedule an appt. with the Dr. and ask for a referral for an MRi and to a spinal specialist. The specialist would be able to better answer your questions and concerns.

Good luck to you and your son!

Bernie

 
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Old 01-03-2007, 07:32 PM   #3
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

Barb,
One of my daughter's back problems is scoliosis. She was recently diagnosed by her pediatrician with a mild case also. I don't have a lot of experience with this, only that her spine is checked at least once a year by a pediatric ortho to check for progression. At this point her scoliosis has not progressed. I think the degree of the curvature can be checked by an x-ray. I know that at a certain point the dr will try bracing to hold the curve from progressing. When the curve again reaches another % surgery is done to correct the curvature.

Since your son is now experiencing back pain I would take him to a pediatric orthopaedist who has a specialty in scoliosis. This type of dr will have a fellowship in pediatrics, an extra year of training in just pediatric orthopaedics. The pediatric spine is still growing so this is the type of dr we have been seeing for all of her spinal problems.

I know how worried you get as a mother. Every night when my daughter would come home from school and lie flat on the couch I would get so concerned. She was in way too much pain for teenager to have. She would come home each night and take Aleve and still be in pain. This takes a toll on both of you. I can understand you not having insurance and putting this off for a while. My husband has been laid off for a few months now, but luckily I carry the insurance. In the mean time we have put many things on hold right now until he's back to work. Maybe the dr's office will be able to work out something out with you if they know your situation.

When my daughter was first diagnosed with spinal problems I read everything that I could find on her problems. I tried to become my own expert so that I knew what to expect and how best to help her. Best wishes to you both and keep us informed on how he makes out. cas

Last edited by caszyman; 01-03-2007 at 07:36 PM.

 
Old 01-04-2007, 06:10 AM   #4
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

Hi Barb,
I have severe scoliosis which was ignored when I told my parents I was having a lot of back pain when I was about 15. Three years later, it was finally diagnosed and I had a spinal fusion to keep it from getting worse. I have had back pain every day of my life since I was 15, but if it had been diagnosed when I first complained, it could have been corrected and I would probably be pain free today and would not have had to have the recent fusion I had to stabilize my lower spine so it could hold up that huge sidewards-curving spine above it. My curve was over 60 degrees when it was diagnosed.

Two of my three kids also have scoliosis (which, of course, makes me feel very guilty for giving it to them). My daughter's is very mild and only gives her pain when she's trying to get out of doing the vacuuming. My son's was found when he was 14. His was worse than his sister's, and we ended up putting him in a brace. He will be 18 next weekend, and last week he was finally told he could stop wearing the brace. He's not out of the woods yet. His curve is now at about 35 degrees. They will still consider surgery if it gets over 40 degrees. He has no pain whatsoever, even though his curve is evident through his clothing. It's not real obvious, but if he leans over, it can be seen.

Okay, all that said, I don't intend to make you feel like you've ignored you son's problem. You did have him seen. He did get a diagnosis. It's unfortunate that you lost your insurance and he wasn't followed for a while, but it's much more unfortunate that your new doctor didn't test him after you even told her about his diagnosis. In my opinion, you need a new doctor. This is so easy to spot! She could have checked him in about 30 seconds! Having been told that he has scoliosis, any good doctor would have and should have done that simple check.

A plain old x-ray shows the curve quite well. It can be measured by any competent physician.

Since your son is now having pain, he definitely needs to be seen. He's 18 now? Look for an orthopaedic doctor who specializes in the spine. In my area, there are several well-known ortho groups, and each one has one or more doctors who only do spines. If you don't already know a good doctor to go to, call the prominent groups in your area and ask who does only spines. If you know any nurses or physical therapists, they're great resources to tell you who the best doctors are.

Yes, this can definitely progress with time. That's what happened to both me and to my son. The brace kept his from getting as bad as mine (thank the Lord!). Exercises for the core muscles might help, but it may still progress even with exercises. He may find that he has less pain, though, if his core muscles are stronger. I would have him stay away from lifting heavy weights. Heavy weight will put a lot of stress on a spine that's already struggling. The possible complications are restrictive lung, which just means that the rib cage on one side may compress and press on the lung on that side so he may get out of breath more quickly than he would otherwise, and of course, pain. For me, since mine was not treated when it should have been, I've now had a second fusion to deal with the increased pain and degeneration of my lumbar spine due to the abnormal sidewards pressure of the rest of my spine. I am now fused from about the middle of my chest (T4) all the rest of the way down.

It's not my intention to scare you. If his back had gotten as bad as mine had, you'd probably have known before now. But your son does need to be seen. This is a treatable problem. And by the way, medical technology has changed a whole lot since I was originally diagnosed and treated. My surgeon was orienting a new physician's assistant at my last appointment. He popped up my x-ray and described my case to her. He commented to her, "This fusion was done about 30 years ago. Today we'd never leave a patient like this. We have new methods today that they didn't have then." Your son wasn't able to be followed up for a while, but it's not too late. His pain is the main symptom to consider. If he's having this kind of pain now, it's not going to go away. It will probably get worse.

I'm so glad you posted and are trying to get help for your son. This is a good place to come for information and moral support. Way to go, Mom! Your son is fortunate to have a mom who is ready and wanting to help him. If you have other questions, please post. There's bound to be someone who can give you some feedback.

Good luck! I hope you can find a doctor you love for your son. Please come back and let us know how he's doing.

Blessings,
Emily

 
Old 01-04-2007, 03:48 PM   #5
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

His back is still hurting a little today so I took a look at it. I can clearly see now that he is leaning toward the left and there is a tightness in a muscle to the left of his spine. And directly to the right if that, I think I can feel a bulge in his spine. It's bulging to the right. Ok I'm really worried now.

I'm going to make an appt with a doctor tomorrow. I don't have insurance so I'll have to take him to the county health department clinic.

Oh how I wish the doctor would have taken that 30 seconds to look at his back when he was there last....

I so appreciate everyone's thoughtfulness. Thank you so much!

I will keep you posted on what happens.

Barb
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Old 01-04-2007, 05:28 PM   #6
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

I had MRI's and x-rays of my lower spine to find out the cause of quickly worsening back pain...and both showed mild scoliosis but even I noticed it on the X-ray that my spine looked crooked. I was never suspected to have it while I was going to school, though we were checked every single year through age 18. So it seems mine has started to progress in adulthood, rather than childhood. It turned out that all my pain was caused by other conditions, not by my mild scoliosis. Since I had surgery for stenosis, my back has been great so in my case I dont think my bend is much concern.

I think in some people it can stay mild and never cause problems, while in others it can progress. So it's probably best to have him checked more thoroughly with x-rays and maybe MRI. It is possible there could be something else going on aside from scoliosis.

 
Old 01-04-2007, 06:32 PM   #7
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

Barb, without insurance the county health department is probably an excellent place to start. There are places that will help you out if you don't have insurance, like a Shriner's hospital or someplace like that. Explain your situation and ask when you go to the health department if they know of a good place for you to go for whatever follow-up they recommend.

But take this one step at a time. He may need surgery, but it sounds from your description like he's not bad enough that they would even consider it yet. They might want to put him in a brace. My son wore his for 12 hours a day. He slept in it from the first night he had it and never had a problem with it. It never bothered him at all, except, of course, that he didn't want his friends to see it! He always wore one t-shirt under it and a second one over it. They very well may just want to watch it for a while and not do anything at all yet. If that's the case, ask what to do for his pain. Heat or ice and ibuprofen may be all he needs. Maybe they'll give him something a little stronger for days when it's worse.

Anyway, I hope all goes well. And I'm sorry if I scared you.

Take care!
Emily

 
Old 01-05-2007, 09:04 AM   #8
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

Emily, thank you! No, you didn't scare me. My mind tends to wander toward the worst case scenario so your post actually relieved me.

We have an appt for January 12th. I'm shocked and grateful they had an opening so soon. Half of each day is spent taking care of walk in's so the usual wait for an appt is 1 month plus.

Baybreeze, sorry you had to go through surgery. It's great that your pain has been relieved and I hope your scoliosis stays nice to you!

Barb
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Old 01-05-2007, 01:07 PM   #9
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

Barb, good for you! Keep tabs on your son. I have scoliosis that developed as an adult. Mine was not severe, only a 18% curvature in the lower lumbar area, BUT it had cost me two inches of height over the years. My surgeon straightened it out, fused me and gave me back those two inches.

This can be treated and treated well. Don't delay. You are your childs' best advocate and they need you to push for them. He can't do this on his own, you need to be his champion.

Let us know how things work out. It's rough not having insurance...
jill

 
Old 01-07-2007, 05:27 PM   #10
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

Hi Jill! Thanks so much for your response. Honestly, I don't know what I would do without these boards and the people on them.

Thank you for telling me about your surgery. It sounds like you had a good recovery from it. It's really good to hear success stories.

I hope my son won't have to go through the surgery but it doesn't look like his pain is easing up much. And the swelling is still there. He carries a messenger bag FULL of books to school every day. I hope he'll be able to get through the day without much pain. Tomorrow is his first day back to school since the pain started.

Wish him luck on his appt Friday!

Love, Barb
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Old 01-07-2007, 06:42 PM   #11
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

Barb,
Is your son a sr in high school or a freshman in college? The reason I'm asking is when my daughter began having her severe back problems she was a freshman in high school. The school really worked with us to accommodate her needs, even without an IEP. I requested an extra set of textbooks to be distributed to her. She kept one book in a spot in each classroom and kept the other set at home. I know how bad that backpack or messenger bag is for their backs. One book may weigh over five pounds and just think of how many they may carry at a time. I do realize that if he's in college that isn't possible to do. We found that just little things like that and being able to move around and lie down in the classroom if she was having pain would help her. All her teachers bent over backwards for her, even if she couldn't. lol

I wish you good news at your dr appt. cas

 
Old 01-08-2007, 11:26 AM   #12
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

Barb, one other thing. They checked my youngest son for scoliosis when he was in 9th grade. The dr. told me one of the worst things for kids to do was to be carrying the book bags that weigh almost as much as they do. Because they don't carry it with both straps, it can tend to aggrevate an already existing condition.

 
Old 01-11-2007, 03:46 PM   #13
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

Yeah I figured the messenger bag was a big culprit.

He's a senior in high school and many of his classes are on oposite sides of the building. We tried to get them where he would have as many classes in the same general area for as long as possible every year. But this, his senior year, has proved to be impossible to do that. He has an IEP every year because of learning disabilities and ADD and most of his teachers (except for one) are very good to help him in whatever way they can.

His back hasn't hurt since his return to school (hmmm, that's odd ). He will be seeing the doctor tomorrow anyway. He does still have that big "bump" which I was assuming was a tight muscle but since he has no pain or discomfort now I don't know.

I suppose we'll find out tomorrow morning.

Wish him luck!

Love, Barb
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Old 01-13-2007, 04:36 PM   #14
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

Is your son 18 yet? If not, he could be seen at any of the Shriner's Hospitals in the US and there is no cost to him or your family. If he is 18 or above, then I'm afraid I can't help you with the lack of insurance, other than to apply for you state's Family Health plan.

My son was diagnosed when he was 14 with a mild case of scoliosis. His progressed very rapidly over 2 years and he was becoming very disfigured, out of breath and tired all the time. When he did have surgery last October, his curve had progressed to over 90 degrees. If we had let it go, eventually he would have had serious heart and lung complications. After the surgery he was actually 3 inches taller! He never complained of pain either before or after surgery ... gues he has a high tolerence.

 
Old 01-13-2007, 04:50 PM   #15
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Re: Questions about scoliosis & how it's diagnosed.

[FONT="Times New Roman"][I][SIZE="5"][COLOR="Blue"]Barb,
Was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was a sophomore in high school. At that particular time, was not having too much pain except when my typing teacher told me to sit up straight.[/COLOR][/SIZE][/I][/FONT] [I][I][FONT="Times New Roman"][COLOR="Blue"][SIZE="5"]Moma took me to one of the best osteologist in Dallas. He told me...or rather my Moma to have me do certain exercises (which no teenager will do faithfully) to keep it from getting worse. Married, had three children (with no problems whatsoever) and dealt with the pain best I could. The 'scoliosis hump' progressed as did my ribs front and back. You probably already know with scoliosis, your body twists inside.[/I] As the years passed, I got worse and it became very difficult for me to breathe. My ribs right underneath my right breast started bulging out and was putting pressure on my lungs and my lungs were putting pressure on my heart. By the way, scoliosis is inherited; It runs in my family on my Moma's side. Had no choice but to have surgery if I wanted to live longer and I do. Actually, what I want is quality living. Am 55 years old and 5 months post-op. Had a complete spinal instrumentation with a fusion. It was a 9 hour operation which consisted of 2 titanium rods and 29 screws. Yes, the surgery hurt and I'm still in pain. Go to aquatic therapy 3 times a week and it seems to be helping. My breathing is absolutely wonderful after my surgeon cut my ribs. Have no 'scoliosis hump' anymore and no bulging (ribs) under the right breast. It will take up to a year to completely heal. Graduated from a walker to a cane and sometimes I don't have to use a cane. Take pain pills as directed along with a muscle relaxer. Also, take Lyrica for nerve damage that my back caused over the years. Some people are scared to take pain pills...not me! You see, I don't think one can get addicted to something they need. Am taking one day at a time and lie down when I get tired. Maybe there will come a time when the pain pills are no longer necessary, but right now, they are very necessary.
Guess what I am trying to say to you is find a good bone specialist for your son and if it means having surgery...do it. Kids bounce back better/faster than a 55 year old. Wish so badly I would have had this done as a teenager, but that is the past and I'm going forward. Have way too much to live for. My kids and g'kids live on my land so I have a lot of support. We are kinda like the Waltons..lol[/COLOR][/FONT][/I][/SIZE]
[I][FONT="Times New Roman"][SIZE="5"][COLOR="Blue"]Mine was a 76 ° curvature and the surgeon corrected it to a 30° curve which to me, is excellent. There are two kinds: 'C' and 'S'..mine is an 'S' and yes, it did bother me to stand up straight so I gave into the pain like most all scoliatic patients do thus having the hump. Yes, it will get worse if not corrected. I am not a doctor, but I lived it and am very well aware of what it causes and the damage it can do.[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/I] [I][FONT="Times New Roman"][SIZE="5"][COLOR="Blue"]I pray you find a great doctor.
God Bless You and Your Son,
Carol Ann[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/I]

 
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