Scoliosis and Growing Pain

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Scoliosis is a sideways curve in the spine that is apparent when viewing the spine from behind. Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but severe scoliosis can be disabling. It is very unusual for a person with scoliosis to require immediate medical attention.

Growing pains can affect children from age three and may continue into early adolescence. Muscular pains in the legs (especially the calf, front of thigh or behind the knees) may be worse in the afternoon or evening and may wake a child from sleep. The cause is not known. Growing pains are harmless and respond to simple treatments.

Scoliosis

The majority of scoliosis is called idiopathic, which means that the medical community does not know what causes it. Scoliosis usually starts in childhood. Scoliosis that is severe enough to need treatment is most common in girls. A curve in the spine may get worse as your child grows, so it is important to find any problem early. A mild degree of scoliosis is common, occurring in up to 50% of the population. Scoliosis generally does not require any specific treatment unless it becomes painful or tight. However, a severe case does indeed need treatment.

Causes of Scoliosis

While the causes for most types are unknown, hereditary factors have thought to have an effect on it. Some less common types of scoliosis may be caused by:

  • One leg being shorter than the other – curvature of the spine can develop due to problems elsewhere in the body, such as one leg shorter than the other or muscle spasms in the back.
  • Neuromuscular disorders – such as Cerebral Palsy, birth defects affecting the development of the spine and muscular dystrophy can cause scoliosis.
  • Arthritis in the spine – This degenerative scoliosis occurs in older adults due to the weakening of the normal ligaments and other soft tissues of the spine combined with abnormal bone spurs.

Symptoms of Scoliosis

Signs and symptoms of scoliosis may include uneven shoulders or waist, one shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other or one hip higher than the other. If a scoliosis curve gets worse, the spine will also rotate or twist, in addition to curving side to side. This causes the ribs on one side of the body to stick out farther than on the other side. Severe scoliosis can cause back pain and difficulty breathing.

Treatment of Scoliosis

The most important part of the management of scoliosis is the early detection of its presence, as early management may prevent the need for surgery. The management of a scoliosis is determined by the extent of the scoliosis. A number of methods are used to decide upon the most appropriate treatment. In most instances a mild scoliosis requires no specific treatment.

Advice in regard to posture and exercises may be offered. In the majority of functional scoliosis, our Practitioners at Spinal and Sports Care can give advice regarding posture, strengthening of muscles and correction of muscle imbalance, strapping, ergonomics and exercise. Exercises can be prescribed to maintain curve status. If a brace is required, an exercise programme will also be prescribed, but if not required, instruction regarding review of the scoliosis and exercises will be provided.

We believe in a team approach and work closely with your GP & other specialists such as Orthopaedic Surgeons, Sports Podiatrists, Massage Therapists, Nutrition and Strength & Conditioning specialists.

Growing Pains

Fact or Fiction?

Growing pains are real but essentially harmless muscular pain that can affect children between the ages of three and five years, and tend to strike again from the age of eight to eleven years. Boys and girls are equally affected.

Some young people may continue to experience growing pains into their early adolescence or teenage years. Pain may be experienced in the legs – often the calf, front of thigh or behind the knees – and is often worse in the afternoon or evening. Sometimes, the pain can wake a child from their sleep.

Even though the child can be in a lot of pain, no damage is happening to the child’s bones or muscles, and growing pains can respond to simple treatments

Causes of Growing Pains

The cause is not known. Despite the name “growing pains,” there is no firm evidence that growing pains are linked to growth spurts.

Symptoms of True Growing Pains

Growing pains are different for everyone. Some kids have a lot of pain, others do not. Most kids do not have pain every day. Growing pains can come and go. They may be experienced for months or even years. Most kids outgrow growing pains within a few years.

The pain is usually felt in the late afternoon and evening, right before dinner time, and at bedtime. The leg pains may hurt so much that they may wake your child from sleep. Growing pains disappear in the morning. They usually do not interfere with the child’s ability to play sports or be active.

In general, growing pains are felt in both legs, especially in the front of the thighs, back of legs (calves), or behind the knees.

Studies suggest that children who have growing pains may be more sensitive to pain. Children who have growing pains are also more likely to have headaches and abdominal pain.

How Are Growing Pains Diagnosed?

We can usually diagnose growing pains by examining your child and asking questions about his or her medical history and symptoms. It is also important to rule out any other possible causes of the pain and this is why it is important to see our experienced practitioners if you think your child has growing pains or any limb pain.

What if They are NOT Growing Pains? How Do I Know?

Not all pain suffered by children whilst in they are in their growth stages are growing pains. Instead, a large number of mistakenly labeled growing pains may simply be discomfort localised to where muscles and tendons attach to the bones and growth plates due to intense childhood activities that can stress these structures developing structures. These activities include running, jumping, and climbing. Pain in the heels and knees seem to be more common after a child has a full day of sports.

At Spinal and Sports Care, we often find patients who have discomfort, which comes on almost exclusively with activity, or after activity, that are often “mis-diagnosed” with growing pains.

In other words, the pain that is being experienced by the child is secondary to a lot of intense activity, affecting the muscle/tendon/bony junction, which happens to be occurring during their growing and development years due to skeletal immaturity but not because they are growing or going through growth spurts.

This has the effect of irritating the child’s growth plates causing inflammation and pain due to the traction and compressive forces of their activities.

If this is the case, treatment will be most successful in returning your child to pain free activity, usually within weeks, often without the need for a prolonged period of rest.

At Spinal and Sports Care, our Sports Chiropractors are highly trained to assess and diagnose varying conditions, then plan and administer appropriate treatment and rehabilitation programs to restore our patients function to the highest possible level. This may include addressing biomechanical and muscular dysfunction in your child’s lower limbs, hips and pelvis as well as assessing their gait and feet.

The key is to be certain that it is indeed growing pains that your child is suffering and that the term “growing pains” hasn’t been applied too loosely in a diagnosis.

Two such conditions are known as Osgood Schlatters Disease (Knee) and Severs Disease (Heel).

Please use the table below as a guide regarding your child’s pain. If the patterns of your child’s symptoms match those in the table below, then there is a good chance that your child may benefit from an examination from one of our Sports Chiropractors at Spinal and Sports Care.

YES NO
1). Is the pain experienced by the child, only during or after excessive activity such as soccer 1). Does the pain awaken your child at night from their sleep?
2). Does your child limp after excessive activity or after getting up from a seated position such as getting out of the car after training? 2). Does your child have pain when sitting doing their homework or school work, or whilst having dinner of an evening?
3). Is the pain often relieved by a period of rest?4). Is the pain specific to the bone around the knee and heels, and is sensitive to being touched or tapped rather than generalised muscle soreness 3). Does your child have pain whilst watching TV or whilst playing X-Box or PlayStation?

Is it really growing pain or just overuse–type pain at the muscle/tendon/bone junction, and because of skeletal immaturity in children, results in pain? Surely, if the child was to stop activity, they would continue to grow?

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