Scoliosis is a deformity of the spine that causes the spine to have one or more abnormal curves. Rather than a straight spine, the spine may have a “c” or an “s” shape. This may cause one shoulder or hip to appear higher than the other. Scoliosis can be mistaken for poor posture. Every year, your child should have his/her spine evaluated for scoliosis by their pediatrician. Scoliosis is usually not painful, but does require careful observation and sometimes treatment by a specialist. Scoliosis can have several causes. Sometimes the bones of the spine, called the vertebrae, are misshapen and do not properly align. This is referred to as congenital scoliosis. Other times, scoliosis is associated with medical conditions such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. This is called neuromuscular scoliosis. And finally, there are some cases of scoliosis that develop in a healthy child and we do not know the cause. This is referred to as idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis can run in families and is very common in girls.
While scoliosis is not preventable, early detection and treatment is the best way to prevent the curve from getting large and causing problems. Scoliosis usually gets worse during times that children are growing their most. It is during this time that your orthopaedic specialist will likely keep your child under close observation requiring an x-ray of the spine every four to six months. If curves gets large enough, sometimes bracing is recommended to prevent it from getting large enough to require surgery. In some instances, despite everyone’s best efforts, scoliosis will progress to the point of needing surgical correction. The type of surgery recommended will largely depend on the size of the curve and the age of the child. If you have any concerns about your child’s spine, or a strong family history of scoliosis, it would be appropriate to have your child evaluated for scoliosis by your pediatrician or a pediatric orthopaedic specialist.