Common Pediatric Spine Conditions
The Anatomy of the Spine
The spine is made up of vertebrae, which are joined together by ligaments and muscles. Between the vertebrae are soft discs that keep the vertebra from rubbing against each other. All of these together make up the vertebral column. Each region of the spine also has a name. The neck is the cervical spine, the chest area is the thoracic spine, and the lower back is the lumbar spine. Each vertebra is then assigned a number so that it can be medically identified when there is an issue.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Some spinal disorders are identifiable before or after birth. Prenatal ultrasounds are very good at identifying problems. However, some conditions develop as a child grows, such as idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis makes itself seen when a child goes through a growth spurt during adolescence. Congenital problems are found before or after birth, but some that don’t show themselves until later. You want to talk to your child’s doctor if there is a family history of spinal issues or if your child displays any of the following:
- Spinal issues due to a birth defect
- A curve to the spine that goes in any direction (sideways indicates scoliosis)
- Metabolic conditions that have an effect on the bones
- Genetic syndromes that can affect the bones
- Conditions that affect neurologic function
- Neuromuscular conditions
Unfortunately, under each disorder category lies a disorder. For instance, kyphosis and scoliosis are spinal deformities. Spasticity, polymyositis, and progressive muscular atrophy are all neuromuscular diseases. Each one of these has different types of treatments that must be utilized in order to increase the quality of life. Many times, treatment can cause a degree of functionality so that a child can engage in a specific amount of physical activity. Orthotics, physical therapy, and core strengthening are just a few of the approaches.
Lots of New Research
A lot of new research is being done to try to identify new minimally invasive techniques for performing corrective surgeries. There is also work being done on more spine implants that could artificially restore the function of the spine. There are some methods of synthetic replacement, but it is something that is believed to be able to go much further, even possibly restoring full function of the spine someday. Those that can’t walk may be made to walk again or for the first time because of the amount of research underway and where that research is taking the field. This means that children that are thought to have to deal with their conditions for the rest of their lives may not have to some day.