Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by emilee. emilee Wonders, “What is scoliosis? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, emilee!

Has anyone ever said that you have a strong backbone? Figuratively, that means you have a strong character. But the health of your actual backbone is also important! Your spine is important for support and movement. It also carries messages to and from the brain.

Has a doctor or nurse ever looked at your spine? If so, they may have been checking for a condition called scoliosis. That’s when a person’s spine is curved to look like an “S” or “C.”

Many people call the spine a “backbone.” But it’s not just one bone. Instead, the spine is made of many bones called vertebrae. 33 vertebrae make up the adult human spine. Seven of those are in the neck—the same number of vertebrae in a giraffe’s neck!

Just how common is scoliosis? Doctors find three million new cases every year in the United States. Most cases are found in children and teenagers. That’s why doctors often examine the spine during a child’s checkup. The condition is so common that some schools even hold screening events during the school day.

What happens during a scoliosis screening? The doctor or nurse will first look at the spine. They might also run a finger along the spine to feel for a curve. If they notice signs of scoliosis, they will order follow-up testing. This will include x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They’ll also want to know about the person’s family medical history, as scoliosis sometimes runs in families. 

What causes scoliosis? In most cases, the cause is unknown. Many rumors exist that scoliosis is caused by heavy backpacks or bad posture. However, that’s not true. Sometimes, the condition is caused by injury or birth defects. 

Once a person is diagnosed with scoliosis, treatment depends on how severe the curve is. If the curve is slight, doctors may only recommend regular checkups. They’ll want to know if the curve gets worse. Slight curves in the spine rarely cause many issues.

What about more severe curves? Patients with spines that are very curved may need to wear a back brace. This won’t straighten the spine, but it can help stop the curve from getting worse. Sometimes, patients have surgery to help straighten the spine.

Severe scoliosis can cause many health problems. It can hurt a person’s joints and cause painful arthritis in the spine. Very severe cases can also result in lung problems. For these reasons, it’s very important for kids to be checked for scoliosis by a doctor or nurse.

Have you ever been checked for scoliosis? If you can’t remember, talk with a family member about it. Screening is very important. That’s especially true if your family has a history of this condition. Protect your backbone—it’s one of the most important parts of your body!

Standards: NHES.A.1, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.7, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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