I Noticed My Child Has Poor Posture, Could It Be Scoliosis?

Growing up in a world full of TV screens, video games and cell phones, millennial children often find themselves sitting or standing in a bent over, forward flexed position with their eyes peeled on whatever piece of technology has caught their interest for that moment in time. As parents, we may find ourselves harping on our children – “sit up straight”, “bring your shoulders back”, “stop being so lazy”. But sometimes, it may be more than a child’s unwillingness to sit up straight. Instead, there may be a physiological or mechanical reason for their postural presentation, and that reason may be scoliosis.

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a multidimensional deformity of one’s spine that presents when the vertebrae are rotated or shifted away from the center of the back. Typically, scoliosis presents to the naked eye as a sideways curve of the spine, either in a “C” or “S” shaped pattern. There are a variety of potential causes of scoliosis, however, approximately 80% of all cases are “idiopathic” meaning that the cause is unknown. Most often, scoliosis presents as a mild curve in otherwise healthy individuals and may be noticeable at birth or begin to develop in childhood.

How Is Scoliosis Different From Poor Posture?

So, you may be thinking – how do I know if my child just has poor posture or if there is something more going on? Different from poor posture which typically presents with the appearance of a forward head, rounded shoulders and increased flexion through the upper spine, some common signs of scoliosis include but are not limited to:

  • asymmetry through the shoulder such that one shoulder may appear to sit higher or lower than the other
  • asymmetry through the shoulder blades such that one shoulder blade may appear to stick out more than the other, especially when bending over to pick something up from the ground
  • asymmetry through the waist such that one side of the waist may appear to sit higher or lower than the other
  • a sideways shift of the torso such that your child may appear to always be leaning to one side

As you can see, the main observable difference between poor posture and scoliosis is that scoliosis typically presents with asymmetries between one side of the body compared to the other. That being said, there are many other reasons your child may be presenting with an asymmetry other than scoliosis. Therefore, it is important to have your child examined by a physician in the event any of these signs are present. In order to confirm the diagnosis of scoliosis, your physician will order x-rays to see the alignment of your child’s spine.

How Can Scoliosis Be Managed?

Once your child is examined, if scoliosis is diagnosed, there are multiple different ways conservative management can help your child with the goal of reducing curve progression, improving cosmetic appearance and ensuring your child can continue to enjoy all aspects of life. Some examples of strategies that a health care professional may incorporate into a management program for your child include passive muscle stretching, gentle joint mobilization techniques as well as soft tissue massage. In addition, a home exercise program may be developed to focus on strengthening weak muscles, stretching tight muscles and improving core and trunk stability.

In the event that your child has a moderate or severe curve, other options may be discussed such as bracing and surgery. Decisions regarding these management options would require an interprofessional approach with various healthcare professionals to determine an individualized plan for your child.

What To Do If I Think My Child Has Scoliosis?

If you suspect your child may have scoliosis, contact your physician to discuss your concerns. Following this, a physiotherapist will be a vital member of your child’s health care team in order to assist their physician in determining the most appropriate management plan for your child.

If you have any questions or would like to book a postural assessment for your child please feel free to contact Butterfly Paediatric Therapy at (905) 206 0300.