Children and Medicine

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History of Scoliosis February 9, 2011

Filed under: Anna — Anna @ 5:17 am

Scoliosis is a curvature in the spine that can cause backaches, uneven hips and shoulders, and respiratory fatigue when the curve becomes severe. It can be caused by malformed ribs or vertebrae during pregnancy, muscular conditions, or can be of an unknown cause (idiopathic). Most minor cases require no treatment because the curve is not great enough to effect the child’s development but the child should receive regular checkups. When treatment is required a brace is used to straighten the spine but braces do not correct the curve, they simply stop the progression. Surgery is used to actually correct the curve and use rods and fusion to stabilize the spine (Zieve et al, 1). These treatments are effective but they have not always been around. Below is video which describes scoliosis symptoms and typical treatments.

Scoliosis treatment has an extensive history.  The word was first used by Hippocrates in the 4th century BCE but the condition he described was not what would today be termed scoliosis. Hippocrates thought that the curve was due to dislocations of the vertebrae not an actual curvature. Hippocrates also described a treatment for the condition that essentially consisted of stretching the body and forcing the spine to straighten although little was done to keep the spine straight. Little was done after this until the 1500s when the ideas were still much the same as what Hippocrates had written 2000 years before. The cause was attributed to tight corsets and children being yanked and picked up by only one arm. Corsets and pressure were used to treat the condition. These ideas preserved throughout the 17th century. In the mid 1700s, treatment methods were again changed when Andre, a doctor who attributed poor posture and high heels to causing scoliosis, prescribed gymnastics as a treatment. These ideas persisted even as ideas about scoliosis and orthopedics as a discipline were changing. Scoliosis began to describe a very specific type of curve while other words were used to describe different curves. More braces began to be invented around this time and they were found in every hospital and doctor’s office around that time. Gymnastics and braces began to evolve into the current treatments we see (Lovett 54-61).

Hippocrates examining a child


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