Scoliosis is a spine condition that causes the back to curve to the side (when viewed from the front). Scoliosis tends to worsen as children grow, thus mild and moderate scoliosis rarely progress once adolescents stop growing (girls up to 15 years old, boys up to 17 years old).
Over 80% of scoliosis cases are idiopathic. This means that there is no known cause. Idiopathic scoliosis affects girls much more often than boys, and occurs in otherwise healthy people.
However, other types of scoliosis may be associated with other conditions that affect the muscles and nerves such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. Scoliosis isn’t poor posture and isn’t caused by carrying heavy objects. Difference in leg lengths and tight hamstring muscles may be mistaken for mild scoliosis.
Each child may experience symptoms differently or have no symptoms at all. Back pain doesn’t tend to go along with scoliosis, however you may notice:
- Shoulder height or position differences
- Hip height or position differences
- Differences in the way the arms hang beside the body when standing straight
- A prominence on one side of the back when bending forward
Children and adolescents who are diagnosed with scoliosis are seen for regular repeat visits, typically ever four to six months as determined by your doctor. Each visit includes a conversation with your doctor, a physical examination, and possibly x-rays. As a pediatric and adolescent specialty healthcare center, we make every effort to minimize radiation exposure including using lose-dosage x-ray techniques.
Bracing is a common treatment choice for adolescents who have a moderate spinal curve — particularly if their body is still maturing, and if they have at least two years of spinal growth remaining. Bracing is meant to diminish the risk of the curve’s progression as the patient grows, though it generally doesn’t lessen or reverse scoliosis.
Children with severe scoliosis curves are often considered for surgery. A fusion is a surgical procedure to correct and stabilize the spine permanently.
If scoliosis is mild or moderate by the time an adolescent is nearly grown, worsening is very unlikely, though they will continue to have a curvature. There is little medical evidence that mild to moderate scoliosis increases the risk of future health problems such as pain, arthritis or other back problems.
Athletes with idiopathic scoliosis may participate in sports activities. Physical activity won’t make scoliosis any worse and keeping fit is important for general health and spine health.
If the scoliosis is very severe and your child needs surgery, your physician will provide guidelines for a gradual return to sports after surgery. Extreme sports and sports with collision may be restricted after surgery.