Scoliosis remains underdiagnosed in teenagers and children in America. This is particularly problematic because many of the less invasive treatments, including the use of back braces to correct the spine curvature, are less effective for adults. Doctors and nurses frequently miss the symptoms during physicals, even though scoliosis is more easily detectable than other debilitating illnesses.
Even if scoliosis is diagnosed for teenagers, oftentimes the disease has already progressed significantly due to earlier failures to diagnose. This means that treatment takes longer and is more restrictive than it would have been had doctors made an earlier diagnosis.
The most common treatment for young people with scoliosis is to wear a rigid back brace at night and during parts of the day. Unfortunately, these back braces, though medically effective, carry the potential for creating social stigma. Teenagers who use these braces frequently complain:
- They miss out on nighttime activities with their friends because of their need to wear the brace
- Other teenagers will tease and bully them about the brace
- There is no way to hide the existence of the brace when it is worn, because it limits movement
- Wearing a brace makes them feel deformed compared to their peers at school, particularly if the brace needs to be worn during events where it would be highly visible, such as Physical Education classes
A new one million dollar grant to researchers working on a dynamic back brace stands to alleviate some of these concerns. Teenagers and children will be able to wear the brace in public while still taking part in a variety of activities, as the brace allows reasonable freedom of movement while still providing the necessary pressure to treat the spine curvature.
If your child has been diagnosed with scoliosis, but only after warning signs were missed, please contact an attorney. Your child may suffer severe bullying and other peer-related problems, and the doctor who missed this pivotal diagnosis must be reminded how important it is for young people to receive prompt care.