The girl was four years old when I met her accompanied by her mother. I immediately noticed why the two had probably come to me: the child had a hunchback. The mother told me the story: She had taken her two-year-old daughter to the pediatrician because the girl was moving awkwardly and her back looked slightly hunched. The doctor noticed a hump in her upper back, but the child was otherwise healthy. With a suspected diagnosis of “scoliosis,” she referred her to an orthopedist.

Scoliosis is a rare curvature of the spine. To this day we don’t know exactly what the cause is. The cube-like vertebral bodies grow a little too much forward. Because there is not enough space in the body, the structures twist, the back flattens, curves and a hunchback occurs. The proportion of children in this country who need treatment for scoliosis is in the per thousand range. Scoliosis often runs in families – but not in our case. The orthopedist therefore confirmed the diagnosis of “scoliosis with unknown cause” and said: It is growing together. That’s what the mother told me. Unfortunately, as in this case, many orthopedic surgeons maintain the idea that scoliosis is not serious. But a crooked spine does not grow together; you should at least continue to monitor all processes. Otherwise, the deformity may increase, lung function may be restricted, or those affected may develop pain or neurological deficits.

The orthopedist sent mother and daughter home with a prescription for physical therapy. But the hump got bigger. A little later the doctor had an initial x-ray done. Scoliosis can be easily diagnosed using an X-ray: the curvature of the spine is defined as the angle between two lines that are drawn on the image of the spine. This so-called Cobb angle shows how severe the scoliosis is. Imaging confirmed the diagnosis. But the child received no further treatment, the mother told me.

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