What is scoliosis?

    Scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine. The curve can make the spine look like an “s” or a “c” rather than a straight line when viewed from the back. An x-ray of the spine is needed to determine if the condition has developed. Scoliosis is defined as a curve of 11 degrees or more.

    Although scoliosis can develop at any age, the majority of the cases happen during adolescence, when most children are growing rapidly.

    As the spine grows, it bends to the side and may twist or rotate. Since ribs are attached to the spine, they can rotate and make the chest look uneven. This twisting can also make the shoulders or waist look uneven.

    Common signs of scoliosis include:

    • Uneven shoulders and shoulder blades
    • Unequal distance between arms and body
    • Uneven hips
    • Ribs prominence, or ribs that stick out in one area
    • Lower back muscle prominence, or muscles that bulge on one side
    • Uneven waist folds

    Scoliosis is not always painful. Your child may not have pain at all, especially if the curve is mild or moderate. If your child has constant back pain, contact his doctor.

    About 2 to 3 percent of children have scoliosis. The cause is usually not known. Most children will not have harmful long-term effects, but some will develop serious problems later in life if not treated. A curve in the spine may get worse during the adolescent growth spurt. Once a child is fully grown, a mild curve usually will not get worse.

    Untreated scoliosis can cause:

    • Severe physical deformity
    • Chronic back pain 
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Heart problems
    • Lung problems

    Severe cases of scoliosis can cause:

    • Curves in the spine that continue to get worse during adult life
    • Heart problems
    • Lung problems

    If you think your child may have scoliosis, act now. Early detection and treatment can save your child from a lifetime of pain and other issues.


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