The musculoskeletal system is the system that supports your body and allows for connection and movement. The system is made up of the bones, which serve as your body’s framework and give it shape and support; the muscles, which allow you to deliberately move different parts of your body; and the joints, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments, which link bones and muscles together.
Musculoskeletal problems can be acquired or congenital. This means that they can arise because of an injury, contracted illness, or other external event. Alternatively, they can be present from birth, often as a result of a genetic condition or underlying neurological condition. In addition, while musculoskeletal problems can affect people of any age, children are particularly susceptible to musculoskeletal challenges because their bones are still growing and their bodies are still developing.
At the National Center for the Social Adaptation of Children, a charitable organization that serves Uzbek children with disabilities, children with musculoskeletal problems receive treatment and therapy from a dedicated team of health care providers who specialize in pediatric musculoskeletal disorders. Some of the conditions these providers help to treat include:
Scoliosis is a musculoskeletal condition in which the spine curves to the side, creating a C or an S-shaped arc. Depending on the severity of the curve, this can eventually lead to changes in the shoulders, ribcage, pelvis, or waist that can impact flexibility and mobility. It can even affect breathing if the angle of the spine affects the amount of space available in the chest for the functioning of the lungs.
The cause of most cases of scoliosis is unknown, although some cases do result from conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. Many people with scoliosis have a fairly mild version of the condition, but for some children, the condition becomes more pronounced as they get older. Signs and symptoms of scoliosis include uneven shoulders or waist, one shoulder blade that is more prominent than the other, or one hip that is higher than the other.
This general term is used to describe a range of foot abnormalities, typically present at birth, that involve the foot being twisted out of shape or position. One of the most common congenital deformities of the musculoskeletal system, club foot can look like a foot pointing downward and/or rotated toward the other foot; a foot that is smaller in size than normal; or a foot turned so severely that it appears as though the foot is upside down.
Despite its appearance, club foot does not usually cause any discomfort or pain in infancy. However, it is important for treatment to begin immediately to straighten out the leg and foot and give the child the best chance of leading a fully mobile life. Non-surgical treatments like casting or splinting are usually the first treatment methods pursued.
Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH)
DDH is a medical term that describes general instability or looseness of the hip joint. In a normal hip joint, the “ball” found at the upper end of the thighbone fits snugly into the “socket” that is part of the large pelvis bone. However, when DDH is present, the hip joint has not or does not form normally, leaving the ball loose in the socket and very easy to dislocate.
DDH is generally present from birth, although some swaddling practices can cause a baby to develop DDH after birth. In some cases, DDH has no visible symptoms. In other cases, it may involve legs of different lengths; uneven folds of skin on the thigh; reduced mobility or flexibility on one side; or limping or other unusual gait.
Also known as “wry neck,” torticollis is a condition in which the neck becomes painfully twisted and tilted, with the top of the head angled to one side and the chin angled to the other. Torticollis can be either congenital or acquired; while it can be hereditary, it can also develop in the womb, particularly when blood supply to the neck is compromised during development.
When children develop torticollis, their faces may appear flattened or unbalanced, and they may experience associated motor skill delays or problems with hearing and vision. Depending on the severity of the condition, stretches and physiotherapy exercises can help address it.
Scheuermann’s disease is a developmental disorder of the spine in which the vertebrae of the upper back (known as the thoracic vertebrae) grow abnormally. In this condition, the back of the thoracic vertebrae grows normally while the front grows more slowly. This results in the vertebrae developing a distinct wedge shape, which causes the back to bend slightly backwards (this is called an increased dorsal kyphosis).
Scheuermann’s disease does not usually cause serious problems, though it can limit range of motion and make certain actions painful or uncomfortable. Its cause is presently unknown, but associated factors in its development include infection, juvenile osteoporosis, and biomechanical factors such as a shortened sternum.