21 January 2011

Learning about scoliosis and cerebral palsy

Scoliosis, or a change in the curvature of the spine, is a really big issue among those with cerebral palsy. In particular, it can become a serious problem for those with spastic, otherwise known as hypertonic cerebral palsy. In my previous blog I talked about hypertonic cerebral palsy, and mentioned how damage in the brain can lead to changes in a person’s muscle tone. What happens is that once the brain area is affected, the trunk or centre of the body will be impacted as well, with the limbs following suit.

So how does this affect the spine? First off, the curvature of the spine changes because it is accommodating and compensating for all the abnormal tension that is found in the body. The overactive muscles will pull and tear the spine in any direction that it wants to, and this can create a big problem for children. I have personally seen kids whose scoliosis has caused their spine to turn 70, or even 90 degrees.

Now, most of the treatments available for scoliosis deal with only the consequences instead of the cause of the condition. There are procedures such as fusion, which involves placing rods along the spine to maintain proper curvature. I know that for some kids this can be beneficial, and some claim that they feel better after having the surgery.

In my opinion, when the curve of the spine exceeds a certain degree and continues to progress, then yes, it will need to stop. Surgery should be considered as a last resort when there is nothing to maintain a child’s condition. However, if you are teaching your child to move and interact properly and independently, his condition will not progress as drastically because the child’s muscle tone will have normalized, alleviating the stress placed on the spine. In addition, you should look at your child’s age and the stage of development he has reached. Then, if you are offered the surgery, consider the advantages, disadvantages and consequences of the procedure. There will be certain things that your child will not be able to do, so you really need to know what he will be able to achieve post-surgery. Based on this, as well as advice from licensed professionals, you will be able to make an educated decision whose consequences you will be prepared to handle.

If you have any comments, questions or concerns, email me at natan@enabledkids.ca. I look forward to hearing from you!

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