Scoliosis Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Scoliosis is a condition in which there is a sideways curve of the spine or backbone. It usually develops in boys and girls between the ages of nine and fifteen, during a growth spurt and right before puberty. Although the majority of scoliosis cases are mild, some children suffer from spine defects that become progressively severe as they get older. Severe cases of scoliosis can diminish chest space, stop the lungs from functioning correctly, and lead to breathing difficulties and back pain.

What are the Symptoms of Scoliosis?

The main signs and symptoms of scoliosis are a body that tilts to the side, uneven shoulders, an uneven waist, one leg or hip that appears higher than the other, or one shoulder blade that seems to be more defined than the other. In the event that a scoliosis curve worsens, the spine will twist or rotate as well as curve from side to side. When this occurs, the ribs on one side of the body will stick out farther than on the other side.

What Causes Scoliosis?

Unfortunately, the cause of some forms of scoliosis are unknown. However, the condition does tend to run in families and relates to certain hereditary factors. Types of scoliosis that are not as common may be caused by birth defects that affect the development of the spinal bones, infections or injuries of the spine, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, or other neuromuscular conditions.

How is Scoliosis Treated?

The majority of time, boys and girls with scoliosis have mild curves that do not require a brace or surgery. Children with mild cases of scoliosis should schedule a doctor’s checkup every four to six months to determine whether or not changes have occurred in their spinal curves.

Treatment options for mild, moderate, and severe cases of scoliosis vary from child to child. Prior to selecting a treatment plan, you should consider the severity of the curve, the curve pattern, and location. In addition, the sex of the child should be taken into consideration because girls have a greater risk of progression than boys. If you do determine that treatment makes sense for your child, braces and surgery may be options.

  • Braces.  A brace may be recommended to children that are still growing with moderate scoliosis. Although braces are not a cure for scoliosis, they almost always prevent the curve from progressing. The more often a brace is worn, the more effective it will be. Children may wear a full-torso brace known as the Milwaukee base or a low-profile brace that is specifically created to fit under the arms and around the rib cage, hips and lower back.
  • Surgery.  If your child’s scoliosis has a high possibility of progressing, surgery to reduce the spinal curves severity and to stop it from worsening may be suggested by a doctor. A spinal fusion surgery is the most common type of scoliosis surgery where two or more of the bones in the spine get connected so that they cannot move on their own. Learn more about spinal fusion surgery »

If your child has scoliosis and you are seeking professional advice on his or her condition, visit EmergeOrtho: Foothills Region in the Unifour area. Our board-certified spine and pain experts pride themselves on providing the highest quality of care and do not require an MRI prior to scheduling an appointment.