Scoliosis in Children

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Scoliosis is when the spine curves sideways into a C- or S-shape, instead of forming a straight line from the neck to the buttocks.

Structural scoliosis comes with a spinal deformity and occurs during fetal development, due to underlying causes or genetics.

Functional scoliosis forms from muscle imbalances or spasms or different leg lengths.

Sometimes, these factors can cause scoliosis:

  • Injury
  • Infection
  • Tumors

The Effects of Scoliosis

Scoliosis may cause:

  • Chronic back pain
  • Body image issues
  • A compressed rib cage that causes breathing problems

Does Your Child Have Scoliosis?

It may be hard to tell. Scoliosis doesn’t create symptoms. Sometimes a child or another person can notice a spine issue, which may show up at any time during your child’s development. Your pediatrician or a screening test can detect the condition, examining:

  • Walking patterns
  • Abnormalities, with an X-ray
  • Curve and rotation of the spine
  • Posture and spine position, including:
    • Uneven shoulders
    • Prominent shoulder blade or ribs
    • Uneven waist
    • An elevated hip
    • Leaning to one side

Treatment    

Scoliosis treatment depends on:

  • How much the spine curves
  • Your child's age

Observation

If your child has a mild curve, your provider may to watch your child’s growth, possibly with regular X-rays. Physical therapy might help manage pain and optimize your child’s function.

Bracing or Casting

If your child continues to grow with a spine curving a certain amount, a brace or cast can keep the curve from getting worse.

Bracing can feel uncomfortable, and children need emotional support and encouragement.

Bracing may not work for:

  • Girls who have had their period for more than a year
  • Children who have attained full growth or are within one year of full pelvic bone growth
  • Infants

Surgery

If the curve of your child’s spine is greater than 40-45 degrees, your child's doctor may advise surgery. The type of surgery required varies with age:

  • Surgery in teenagers typically involves fusing the vertebrae of the spine together or using internal rods to decrease the curve.
  • Surgery in younger children usually does not involve fusion and may use rods that can be lengthened as your child grows.

Your child will need to stay in the hospital 5-7 days. Recovery can take several months.