Did you know that about 20-25% of individuals with cerebral palsy have scoliosis?
Cerebral palsy is a motor disability that can significantly compromise one’s posture, contributing to the development of a sideways curvature of the spine called scoliosis.
This article will explain how cerebral palsy affects posture, the risks associated with scoliosis, and how to treat it.
Can Cerebral Palsy Cause Scoliosis?
Complications of cerebral palsy such as spasticity, muscle weakness, and poor motor control are caused by damage to the developing brain and can contribute to the development of neuromuscular scoliosis.
Individuals are either born with cerebral palsy or develop it very early in childhood. Because children are constantly growing, poor posture can significantly impact the alignment of the bones and joints.
Motor disabilities like cerebral palsy can make it difficult to sit upright and stay balanced. As a result, many individuals with poor trunk stability tend to lean to the side. While it seems harmless, the body can get accustomed to consistently compromised posture, which is what typically causes scoliosis in individuals with cerebral palsy.
Individuals without cerebral palsy typically develop idiopathic scoliosis at the start of adolescence. In contrast, neuromuscular scoliosis generally starts before the age of 10 and can progress well into adulthood.
How to Treat Neuromuscular Scoliosis
Depending on the severity of the curve, treatment for scoliosis can vary. Generally, curves with less than a 45° angle do not require surgery and can be non-invasively managed using braces and wheelchair modifications.
Wearing a trunk brace can help stabilize the spine in an upright position and delay surgery. Typically, bracing is most effective for managing early stages of scoliosis because that is when the spine is most flexible.
Like a trunk brace, a seat mold for wheelchairs can help support correct posture and prevent leaning to the side.
A 45° or greater curve of the spine will usually require surgery. Currently, surgery is the only way to definitively realign a spine with neuromuscular scoliosis.
The most commonly performed surgery for scoliosis is spinal fusion. It involves using metal rods, screws, and hooks to hold the spine together until the curved vertebrae fuse into a single bone.
Effective treatment of scoliosis will help minimize pain and other complications that interfere with the individual’s overall quality of life.
Scoliosis in Cerebral Palsy Patients: A Summary
Children with cerebral palsy often sit in their wheelchairs for very long periods due to their motor impairments. Poor trunk control can make it challenging to sit upright, causing them to lean to the side. Because children are constantly growing, sitting this way can cause their spine to develop a sideways curve.
Generally, the more severe the motor impairment, the faster scoliosis develops. Scoliosis in cerebral palsy patients can continue to progress even after adolescence and make it uncomfortable to go about their day-to-day lives.
It’s best to seek treatment early before the curving of the spine worsens. Typically, the spine becomes less flexible with age, so early management is essential to avoid or delay surgery.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand why scoliosis develops in children with cerebral palsy and how to treat it. Good luck!