Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves to the side, forming what looks like the letter C or S. This condition is most common in children around the age of 10, often occurring during a child’s growth spurt.
Scoliosis rarely causes pain or discomfort in children, and most cases are mild. Parents should still understand how to care for a child with scoliosis and know the long-term complications it can cause.
Untreated scoliosis can lead to a variety of problems, including chronic back pain, spinal deformity, and problems with the heart and lungs.
In addition to a visible curvature in the spine, signs your child may have scoliosis include:
- Uneven hips or waistline
- Tilted or uneven shoulders and shoulder blades
- Prominent ribs that stick out in one area
- Prominent muscles or muscles that stick out in one area of the back
- Uneven skin folds
Keep an eye out for any of these symptoms, as an early diagnosis can help prevent further complications.
The most common type of scoliosis is idiopathic scoliosis, meaning the cause is unknown. Adolescents with scoliosis most commonly have idiopathic scoliosis.
The main cause of scoliosis has yet to be discovered, although it is believed that both genetics and environmental factors play a part in the development of scoliosis. Some conditions that seem to affect this include cerebral palsy, muscle spasms, Marfan syndrome, and tumors.
Other types of scoliosis include:
- Congenital scoliosis: rare, occurs when spinal abnormalities grow in the womb
- Early-onset scoliosis: occurring before the age of 10
- Degenerative scoliosis: occurs in adults due to degenerating joints and discs
- Neuromuscular scoliosis: when muscles and nerves cannot keep alignment
When to See a Doctor
If you suspect that your child may have scoliosis, a scoliosis screening should be scheduled. While the child may experience little to no discomfort, preventing long-term problems is important. Speak with a trusted professional to discuss concerns or treatment.
Your doctor will likely perform a common screening test called “Adam’s forward bend test,” which allows them to look for uneven ribs or shoulders. This position makes it easiest to identify scoliosis in a patient.
X-rays may be taken in order to determine the exact location, degree, and severity of a curve. From here, your doctor will provide the best treatment possible, if any.
Scoliosis does not always require treatment, but one should keep an eye on any curves just in case. Treatment depends on a range of factors, such as a child’s age, the location of the curve, and how many years of growth a child has left.
Treatment includes checkups and frequent monitoring. A common method of preventing further curvature is bracing. A brace cannot straighten existing curves, but it can stop them from worsening.
Surgery is an option for those who have more severe scoliosis. The standard surgery used is a spinal fusion, which is when the spine is straightened, and the vertebrae eventually form together into one bone structure. Spinal fusion has greatly improved the lives of many people.
Contact a doctor if you believe your child may have scoliosis or if you have any questions.