Abnormal curvature of the spine can interfere with a child’s health and quality of life. Scoliosis or kyphosis can have a negative impact on self-image and confidence. Although there is no cure for these spine conditions, early treatment can help to manage symptoms and prevent further curvature. Specialized treatment allows the majority of children and teens with scoliosis or kyphosis to live happy, normal lives.
Treatment for pediatric scoliosis and kyphosis may include noninvasive constructive care. In cases where curvature is pronounced or quickly worsening, a doctor may recommend physical therapy or bracing to manage the spine condition.
Spine Care Professionals with Advanced Training
The experts at Ascension Seton have specialized training in pediatric scoliosis and kyphosis care. Physiatrists and physical therapists work together to create an individualized treatment plan for your child.
Physical therapy plays an important role in the treatment of pediatric scoliosis and kyphosis. It provides critical spine support, promotes correct movement and relieves pain. Before beginning physical therapy, a physician will assess your child’s condition to determine the most appropriate care. Each treatment plan is customized to meet your child’s unique needs.
Physical therapy involves a combination of therapeutic manipulation, healing modalities and exercise instruction. One or more of the following may be included in your child’s treatment plan:
- Range-of-Motion Exercises: Exercise to improve range of motion if scoliosis limits movement.
- Strength Training: Curvature of the spine can weaken muscles. Strength training targets specific muscles around the spine or in other parts of the body for increased support and stability. A key goal of strength training is often to increase core strength. The core consists of abdominal muscles, the pelvis, lower back and diaphragm. A strong core provides support for the spine and can help relieve strain on back muscles.
- Manual Therapy: Scoliosis can restrict joints and muscle movement. A physical therapist can help to restore mobility and retrain movement patterns.
- Posture Correction: Improper posture caused by a curved spine strains other parts of the body. Physical therapy helps your child correct and maintain good posture.
- Modalities: Scoliosis and kyphosis can create muscle tension or cause pain in the joints. Ice, heat, electrical spinal stimulation or ultrasound therapy can promote muscle relaxation and provide pain relief.
- Training and Education: Physical therapists can teach your child special exercises that are designed to improve their condition. These exercises help to reprogram the body and prevent spinal curvature from worsening. Keeping the back flexible and strong is vital to overall health and quality of life.
Exercise is one of the best methods for managing scoliosis and treating pain. Our staff will develop an individualized routine for your child. Exercises need to be done on a daily basis in order to be effective. Parents play an important part in encouraging children to regularly do their exercises.
In addition to physical therapy, children and teens who have curves between 25 and 40 degrees may need bracing. This nonsurgical method involves wearing a specialized brace around the torso. The brace, also known as an orthotic, helps to prevent the curve from worsening as spine growth continues. In addition to preventing further curvature, wearing a brace can help to delay surgery and guide healthy spine development.
There are several kinds of braces available. Most braces are made from lightweight materials. The type that is used is based on the child as well as the location and severity of the curve. A doctor will recommend how many hours per day the brace should be worn.
The most common kind of brace is a TLSO (Thoracic Lumbar Sacral Orthosis). This type of brace comes up under the arms and can be worn beneath the clothes, so it isn’t visible. It is typically prescribed for curves in the mid to lower back. A TLSO brace is custom-molded to fit your child’s body and can be taken off for sports activities.
The Wilmington Jacket is a type of TLSO brace. Made of lightweight plastic, it’s designed to be worn up to 20 hours a day. Its custom fit helps to make it as comfortable as possible.
Another TLSO brace is the Charleston brace. Because the way that it bends the spine can put the body in an awkward position, this brace is only worn at night.
A CTLSO (Cervico Thoracic Lumbar Sacral Orthosis) brace is similar to a TLSO brace but includes a neck ring. The neck ring is attached to the body of the brace. Also called a Milwaukee brace, a CTLSO is typically prescribed for curves in the thoracic spine.
The Importance of Bracing
Many braces are worn for 18 hours or more a day. More specialized braces are typically only worn at night. It’s not uncommon for children and teens to feel self-conscious about wearing back braces at school or around their peers. Parents should take an active, supportive role to ensure that braces are worn as prescribed by the doctor.
Untreated or poorly managed scoliosis and kyphosis can lead to problems with the heart and lungs. Pronounced curves that advance into adulthood may require spinal fusion surgery, which is often considered as a last resort. Wearing braces can prevent the need for surgery approximately 60 to 70 percent of the time.
Experience the Ascension Seton Difference
At Ascension Seton, we are committed to providing your child with a better quality of life. Our staff of physical therapists and physiatrists will develop a comprehensive individualized treatment plan to meet your child’s unique needs. We have locations in Austin and throughout Central Texas. To learn more about noninvasive treatment options for pediatric scoliosis and kyphosis, visit one of our locations.