Scoliosis: Sit Up and Listen

physician checking a child for scoliosisScoliosis is a sideways curve in the spine that typically shows up in adolescents between the ages of 10 and 16, although it sometimes develops in younger children.

What causes scoliosis?

Most cases (about 80 percent) of scoliosis in children are idiopathic, which means that we don’t know the cause.  Some cases are congenital, which means that the scoliosis develops in the womb and is present at birth. Congenital scoliosis is caused by problems during the development of the vertebrae (the little bones that form the spinal column), like:

  • Vertebrae don’t form normally or fully
  • Vertebrae are missing
  • Vertebrae are fused together

The other type of scoliosis is neuromuscular, meaning that it’s caused by an underlying condition in the brain, spinal cord, and/or muscular system, such as:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Spina bifida
  • Tumor on the spinal cord

Does my child have scoliosis?

Your child is screened for scoliosis at well-child visits with their pediatrician, and most schools in the U.S. screen kids in the fifth or sixth grade. But, if you still have concerns, there are some signs and symptoms you can watch out for:

  • Shoulders are uneven (one is higher than the other)
  • Head is tilted, uneven with the shoulders, or not centered with the body
  • Hips are uneven
  • One shoulder blade is more visible or sticks out more than the other
  • Arms aren’t even in length
  • Family history

Should I be worried?

If you’re worried that your child might have scoliosis, the best thing you can do is talk to their pediatrician who can do a quick screen and order more tests, if necessary. Treatment is usually quite successful, especially if the scoliosis is found early.

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