Scoliosis is an abnormal side-to-side curve of the spine. Most scoliosis begins to develop just before puberty. It affects girls more than boys.
A Warning for Parents
As scoliosis starts developing in a child, it does not cause pain. Therefore, parents should look for certain signs in their child, beginning at about age 8:
- one shoulder is higher than the other
- one hip is higher than the other
- the child may be leaning to or favoring one side
- the ribs and/or shoulder blade on one side of the back are more prominent than on the other side. (This may look like a hump.)
- the waist looks uneven.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says that even one of these signs indicates the need for an examination by a family doctor or orthopedist. They say school screenings can be helpful in alerting parents to the possibility of scoliosis in their child, but an accurate diagnosis can only be made by a physician.
Treatment for Children
Treatment for scoliosis in children is individualized, based on:
- Family history
- Age of onset
- Location of the curve
- Severity of the curve
- Other factors
Usually, scoliosis curvature does not develop enough to require much more than an orthopedist keeping a watch on it.
In some cases, however, a brace may be needed to prevent the curve from progressing. Children who are being treated with a brace can still participate fully in physical and social activities.
Scoliosis left untreated can, and often does develop. The result is back pain, deformity and breathing difficulty. Sometimes it takes many years for these symptoms to develop, perhaps until the patient is an adult.