Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
Scoliosis, a condition that causes the spine to curve too much in the wrong direction, affects approximately 6 million people in the U.S. Scoliosis develops gradually and is often not detected until a child is between 10 and 14 years old. No one knows what causes the most common type of scoliosis, idiopathic (meaning “unknown cause”). It is not caused by poor posture, diet, exercise or the use of backpacks. It is thought to be hereditary, so other family members may have it, and though it occurs equally in girls and boys, girls are more likely to developing more severe cases.
When a person has scoliosis their spine curves into an “S” or a “C” shape from side to side. When this curve is severe, it can be visible and cause pain. Severe curvature of the spine can lead to other health problems and eventually affect the heart and joints, but in most cases, it is mild enough that it doesn’t require medical treatment.
In some cases, scoliosis is noticeable – one shoulder blade may be higher than the other or the curvature of the spine is visible. Most schools and doctors screen for scoliosis. When a child is diagnosed with scoliosis, your doctor will check his or her spine regularly (every 6 to 9 months) to make sure the curve does not get worse.
Signs and symptoms of scoliosis include uneven shoulders, one shoulder blade that sticks out further than the other, uneven waist, one hip higher than the other, and leaning to one side. Risk factors that can affect the chance that a scoliosis curve will get worse include:
Sex – girls are more likely than boys to have greater curvature of their spine
Age – if scoliosis appears at a younger age it is more likely to worsen
Angle of the curve – the greater the angle of the curve, the more likely it will worsen
Location – Curvature in the mid to lower spine are less likely to worsen than those located in the upper spine.
Spinal problems at birth – Children born with scoliosis are more likely to continue to have problems
Treatment is not always necessary, but severe cases of scoliosis may require treatment. Scoliosis is treated with braces that hold the spine in place to keep the curve from getting worse. Some are designed to be worn at night, while others are worn during the day.
Sometimes a child with scoliosis may need surgery to correct the curvature of his or her spine. Surgery to correct the curvature of the spine involves fusing the bones in the spines together using metal rods, hooks, screws and wire to hold everything in line until the bones heal. The operation takes about 6 hours. A child that has this operation will be able to get out of bed the next day and walk. He or she will not need to wear a cast or a brace and will get out of the hospital in about a week.
If your child is diagnosed with scoliosis at school call your family doctor to schedule a physical examination.