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Exploring the Link Between Poor Posture, Heavy Bags, and Scoliosis in Children: Separating Fact from Fiction

If you’re among those parents who diligently ensure your child carries a well-balanced backpack and frequently remind them to straighten up, fearing the onset of scoliosis, it’s time for a reconsideration. Contrary to popular belief, these precautions aren’t as effective as once thought.

Recent research from Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) challenges the conventional wisdom. Published in Clinical Radiology in February 2024, the study examined 34 participants, distinguishing between 16 adolescents with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) and 18 healthy counterparts. Through brain scans, researchers discovered that those with AIS exhibited asymmetrical measurements in the corticoreticular pathway connecting the brainstem’s left and right sides. Additionally, enlargement of the pons, a brainstem region linked to spinal cord function, was observed solely in AIS patients.

AIS manifests as an abnormal spinal curvature during late childhood or adolescence, typically resembling an elongated “S.” This condition, affecting approximately 3% of Singaporean adolescents, disproportionately impacts females, with a prevalence seven times higher than in males.

The neurological underpinnings of AIS raise intriguing questions. The corticoreticular pathway, essential for posture and balance control, appears pivotal. Moreover, the enlarged pons in AIS patients might signify compensatory mechanisms. Gender differences may relate to ligament laxity, although conclusive evidence remains elusive.

Contrary to misconceptions, AIS isn’t attributed to external factors like heavy bags or poor posture. Rather, genetic predispositions and early-life asymmetries in the corticoreticular pathway could be influential. Unfortunately, no prepubescent screening for AIS currently exists.

Looking ahead, larger-scale research could revolutionize AIS management. Neurological interventions, such as magnetic stimulation, hold promise. Presently, scoliosis-specific physiotherapy targets mild cases, while bracing or surgery may be necessary for more severe instances.

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