Scoliosis in Children
Scoliosis is a deformity of the
backbone (spine). It’s when the spine has a side-to-side curve. The curve of the spine
measures 10 degrees or more.
A normal spine appears straight
when looked at from behind. But a child with scoliosis has a spine with an S or C
The child may look like they're leaning to one side. The curve can happen on the right
or left side of the spine. Or it can happen on both sides in different sections. Both
the middle (thoracic) and lower (lumbar) spine may be affected.
In most cases, the cause of
scoliosis isn't known. A child may be born with it. Or they can develop it later in
life. It’s most often seen in children ages 10 to 18. It tends to affect more girls
Possible causes of scoliosis include:
- Nervous system problems like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy
- Conditions that tend to run in
- Differences in leg lengths
These are the most common symptoms
- Difference in shoulder height
- The head not centered with the rest of the body
- Difference in hip height or position
- Difference in shoulder blade height or position
- Difference in the way the arms hang beside the body when the child stands straight
- Difference in the height of the sides of the back when the child bends forward
These symptoms may seem like other
back problems. Or they may be a result of an injury or infection. Make sure your child
sees their healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your child’s healthcare provider
can diagnose scoliosis with a complete health history of your child and a physical
Your child may also need these tests:
X-ray. This test makes images of
internal tissues, bones, and organs. It's the main tool for diagnosing scoliosis.
measures the degree of spinal curvature.
MRI. This test uses a combination of large magnets and a computer to make detailed images
of organs and structures within the body.
CT scan. This test uses X-rays and a
computer to make detailed images of the body.
Finding scoliosis early is important for treatment. If left untreated, scoliosis can
cause problems with heart and lung function. Healthcare providers, and even some school
programs, routinely look for signs of scoliosis in children.
Treatment will depend on your
child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It'll also depend on how bad the condition
The goal of treatment is to stop the curve from getting worse and prevent deformity.
Treatment may include:
Observation and repeated exams. Your
child will need to see their healthcare provider often to check on the curve of their
spine. Whether the curve gets worse depends on the amount of skeletal growth, or how
skeletally mature your child is. Curving of the spine often slows down or stops after
a child reaches puberty.
Bracing. If your child is still
growing, they may need to wear a brace for some time.
Surgery. Your child may need surgery
when the curve measures 45 degrees or more on an X-ray and bracing hasn't slowed the
progression of the curve.
Physical or exercise
Your child's healthcare provider may advise therapy to help
strengthen your child's muscles. It may be used in addition to other treatments
- Scoliosis is a deformity of the backbone (spine). It’s when the spine has a side-to-side
- A child with scoliosis has a spine
with an S or C shape. The child may look like they're leaning to one side.
- Scoliosis can cause a difference in shoulder or hip height.
- X-rays can measure the curve of a child’s spine.
- Depending on how bad the scoliosis is, your child may need a brace or surgery.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the name of a
new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new
instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment
is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are
and when they should be reported.
- Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if your child
doesn't take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose
for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s
healthcare provider after office hours, and on weekends and holidays. This is
important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.