Scoliosis: There's a cure for it

A REGULAR 8-14 year old kid is supposed to be enjoying sports and indoor and outdoor activities both at home and in school. But for a child around that age diagnosed with scoliosis, things are a little different.

As their spine curve at an angle, a scoliotic child not only deals with the physical discomfort and pain, but this also affects the child's self-esteem. There's lack of understanding about the physical deformation and children tend to be cruel against those who are different. People who claim to have normal spines might even see people with scoliosis as someone weird, what with the bulging back, uneven shoulders and hips, or the funny way of walking.

Worse, not much is known about scoliosis among Filipinos.

“We approached Department of Health (DOH) and other government agencies for national statistics of scoliosis, we found out that we do not have statistics yet here in the Philippines. We do not have records of how many are afflicted here in the country. In fact, when we had our Scoliosis Awareness Program June of last year in Manila, we actually screened and we wanted that to be our first statistics. We screened 102 people for scoliosis. Surprisingly, we came up with around 99 of them positive for scoliosis. We screened all the way from five years old to 60 years old,” said Dr. Ed C. Oliveros, Director of Peak Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy Scoliosis Wellness Center in Marfori, Davao City.

According to the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in the United States, “scoliosis is a condition of the spine in which the spine curves to varying degrees in an 'S' shape, either to the right or left side. Scoliosis is diagnosed as one of three types: idiopathic (of unknown origin), congenital… or neuromuscular.”

Eighty percent of all spinal deformities seen by spine surgeons all over the world are adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, which is a little unfortunate because it means that for most cases of scoliosis, no specific cause can be pointed out just yet. Carrying of heavy bags for kids or poor sleeping positions could be factors but are not necessarily the main reason for scoliosis.

Dr. Oliveros, together with his team and Amanda Bonife-Kiamko, a scoliosis awareness advocate who founded Scoliosis Philippines, are pushing for the children’s initial screening for scoliosis in schools to be mandatory from 6th grade to 8th grade.

By June this year, Scoliosis Awareness Program activities will not only be held in Manila but also other key cities in the Philippines such as Davao City and Cebu City to further spread awareness and for earlier detection.

How is Scoliosis treated?

“We have generalized classification for scoliosis: mild, moderate, severe. When we talk about mild, it’s somewhere between 10 degrees to 25 degrees, moderate is between 25 to 40 degrees. Anything above 40 is severe. So the treatments are all different. For mild, it’s usually, exercise and physical therapy. For moderate, in most cases, it’s therapy plus bracing. Severe is surgery. However, we’re in that era of modern technology interventions wherein 40 degrees usually don’t resort to surgery. What we do is therapy and adult bracing,” said Oliveros.

Physical therapy, though it does not promise a full cure from scoliosis, lessens the pain. The pain is caused by the strenuous muscle imbalance since the spine is twisted to several positions. The orthopedic doctor may even prescribe pain relievers when necessary.

During the first week of April, the Duncan Tree Foundation (DTF), an international non-government organization came to Davao City to visit the 10 scoliosis patients from different parts of the country who were granted free scoliosis surgery at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC). The foundation specializes in helping provide gold standard spine surgeries in developing countries to help under-resourced health care systems.

Among the beneficiaries of the free surgery was Dresfie Codriga, a 19-year-old girl who had around 100-degree scoliosis. Having such ailment, she has been bullied as a young girl and she even used to wear braces for 23 hours a day. Because of her extreme condition, her right lung was compressed and she had difficulty in breathing. She used to have a spirometer to help her breathe better. Now, a few days after the surgery, Dresfie said she feels a lot better.

What should a parent of a scoliosis patient do?

“There is hope for your child. Some may be too late, that surgery may be the only answer. But those who are still contemplating and have nowhere else to go, there is intervention. The best thing really is early detection. So that you can prevent it from worsening or delay the progression. Sometimes we can delay the surgery by getting interventions such as therapy and bracing. So, go to the right people. Do your research,” Dr. Oliveros said.

For more information about scoliosis and how it can be treated, Peak Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy Scoliosis Wellness Center can be contacted through 305-4111.

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