Scoliosis means an abnormal sideways curve of the spine. The normal human spine has a few slight forward and backward curves (called kyphosis and lordosis). In a person with scoliosis, their spine curves side to side, like an S-shape. The degree of curvature can vary from mild to severe. Depending on how big the curves are, a person with scoliosis may experience symptoms ranging from back pain to altered leg lengths, asymmetrical shoulders, uneven hip bones, and even breathing problems.
Scoliosis is most likely caused by genetic factors since it can run in families. Other causes may include birth defects, neuromuscular disorders like muscular dystrophy, and injuries to or infections of the spine, especially at a young age. It’s not always easy to tell if your child has scoliosis, since it may develop gradually and without any signs or symptoms in the early stages. This is why it’s so important to have your children screened.
Most school systems in America screen children for scoliosis in elementary school and middle school. Since scoliosis often occurs during a growth spurt just preceding puberty, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends 2 screenings for girls between the ages of 10-12 and 1 screening for boys between the ages of 13-14.
In addition to a physical examination, the most accurate way to diagnose scoliosis is to run imaging tests, such as x-rays. X-rays are also helpful for monitoring the progression of scoliosis as a child ages. This is the best way to ensure the scoliotic curves are not worsening, and, if they are, to initiate earlier intervention that may reduce the severity of symptoms later on.
Scoliosis can’t be cured, but it can be managed. Depending on the severity of the scoliosis, our medical team at Indiana Spine Center may recommend non-surgical intervention, surgical intervention or both. Treatment may include serial casting, orthopaedic braces and surgical spinal fusion.
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