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As the twig is bent.

Jennifer and Melisa are happy teenagers who are able to swim and to participate in sports because their scoliosis has been brought into the electronic age.

The muscles in the small side of their curved spines are being shocked with tiny impulses while they sleep, so that the muscles will grow faster and stronger to balance off the muscles on the ohter side, arresting the curvature. If not stopped, the curvature would have left them with crooked spines.

Until a few years ago, youngsters who developed scoliosis necessitating treatment were obliged to wear braces. This precluded sports for several years during their teens, until their bones stopped growing or until their spines were sufficiently corrected. The braces, worn in the daytime, disrupted the lifestyles of the young patients.

This is why Jennifer and Melissa, and the hundreds of youngsters like them being treated with electrical stimulators, feel lucky indeed.

It was Dr. Walter Bobechko, an orthopedic surgeon from Toronto, Canada, who first conceived the idea of treating scoliosis by specific muscle stimulation while observing children with cerebral palsy during his residency. He found that 50 percent of the cerebral palsied kids with muscular imbalance developed scoliosis. He concluded that if muscle imbalance can create scoliosis, it would make sense to correct scoliosis by producing a muscle imbalance. His research team then found that they could induce scoliosis in young pigs and rabbits by intermittentl stimulating the muscles on the alternate sides of the spine with an electrical impulse. They could use the same electrical impulses to correct the scoliosis by changing the treatment to the opposite side of the spine. The impulse causes a visible muscle twitch, but it isn't painful. It becomes "subliminal" after a short time.

Both Melissa and Jennifer--as is the case in many patinets--were discovered to have scoliosis in a school screening program.

Besides school nurses, other adults should be trained to recognize the early signs of scoliosis. Here are the warnings: (1) One shoulder may be higher than the other. (2) One hip may be more prominent than the other. (3) The rib cage may stick out and apepar as a lump. (4) Posture is generally poor. (5) The neck may be crooked or appear asymmetrical. (6) A girl's hemline may fall unevenly. (7) One leg may be lponger than the other. Ask the child to bend over. The curve, usually to the right, will force the rib cage up slightly on the right side. The right shoulder will appear higher than the left. As the child stands, the right arm will hang farther out from the body than the left. These symptoms may be present individually or in any combination.

Ninety percent of idiopathic or congenital scoliosis appears in girls. No une understands why this is true, but it is thought to be a hormonal imbalance. Often, it first appears during puberty.

Boys and girls frequently become modest during puberty and don't like to have their mothers see them undressed. It is precisely at this time that the scoliosis first appears, and if the curves go too far before they are treated, the tragic result is that they can no longer be corrected with braces or electrical stimulation. The surgery performed to straighten the spine requires months of incapacitation and a fusing of the spine. It is not what any orthopedist wants to do for a young patient unless it is absolutely necessary. But without preventive treatment, severe scoliosis can interfere with organ function in later life, which can even become fatal. Because preventive treatment gives good results in most cases, it is important for all schools to have detection programs so that no youngster slips through the cracks.

A friend recently discovered that her 20-year-old duaghter's hem hung crooked on a new dress, and when she commented about it, the daughter replied, "Of course it is crooked, because I have dollars."

She had elarned about scoliosis at school, but hadn't told her mother until now. Furtunately, it wasn't a serious case, but it was too late, at this point, to correct the curvature. At present, orthopedists do not have spine treatments other than to have surgery after the bones have stopped growing and the patient is out of the teen years.

If your local schools do not have scoliosis screening programs, please think of the pain and suffering you could help prevent by instituting scuh programs. Swim coaches and physical education teachers are in a good position to discover this affliction at a time when many youngsters stop seeng their pediatricians or family doctors frequently.

You may write to the National Scoliosis Foundation, Inc., 93 Concord Avenue, Belmont, Massachusetts 02178, for a free brochure and information about obtaining a film for use in setting up a scoliosis screening program. The film may be used at no cost.

To find a center in your area where electrical stimulation treatment is available, you may call either of these toll-free numbers: (800) 328-0810 or (800) 231-2330.
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Title Annotation:treating scoliosis with electrical stimulators
Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1984
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