Learn to recognize scoliosis

Learn to recognize scoliosis

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine is out of alignment, curving to the side. Scoliosis most commonly occurs during the time when children go through growth spurts. It can also be caused by muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and other muscular conditions.

The Causes of Scoliosis

There is still much that is not known about the causes of scoliosis, though the following are thought to be risk factors:

  • Rapid growth; (e.g., during puberty (typically ages 9-15))
  • Heredity; (e.g., parent had scoliosis)
  • Neuromuscular conditions; (e.g., cerebral palsy) 
  • Birth defects occurring in the spine 
  • Spinal injuries


  • Uneven shoulders (one higher, or one more prominent)
  • Uneven waist
  • One pelvis tilting higher than the other

If any of these symptoms appear to take place with your child, consult a physician. Scoliosis is a condition that can appear very slowly, making it hard to detect sometimes. If something seems to be not quite right with spinal alignment, it’s important to follow your instinct. Though boys and girls seem to have an equal chance at getting scoliosis, girls show a higher rate of the condition worsening and requiring more treatment. If left untreated, allowing for a severe case of scoliosis, the following can occur:

  • Lung and heart dysfunction – the uneven spine can contact the rib cage and make it more difficult for these organs to move and function, making blood circulation and breathing difficult.
  • Significant changes in appearance – if the spine continues to curve and grow further out of alignment, the changes to personal appearance can be serious. Uneven shoulders, uneven hips, or an uneven waist can cause someone suffering from scoliosis to feel quite insecure. 
  • Back pain – those who had scoliosis as children are more likely to have chronic back pain as adults. 

What to do?

In moderate cases of scoliosis, a physician may recommend bracing, wherein the child wears a brace to keep the curvature from getting worse. In these moderate cases, severe action does not usually need to be taken. It is only in the extreme cases that surgery is recommended. If bracing does not work, and the condition worsens, this is when surgery may need to be strongly considered. When considering surgery, a physician will take the patient’s age into consideration, and whether or not the worsening condition requires surgical intervention. The child’s parents will be a factor for consideration also (e.g.,. did either parent have severe scoliosis?).

What Surgery Entails

There are a few options, but the procedure usually involves placing screws and rods along the spine and fusing the deformed spinal vertebrae with either bone taken from somewhere else in the patient’s body (the hip) or bones from a cadaver in the hopes of improving the curvature of the spine. The surgery is very complex and takes hours to perform. This procedure stops the growth of the fused area of the spine, so, it is often not used with young children, as they still have growing to continue. In this case, fusion isn’t used and rods are attached directly to the spine. Wearing a brace full time after experiencing this procedure is common. 

If you suspect your child may have scoliosis, consult a physician and halt the curving process as soon as possible.


  1. Mayo Clinic: Scoliosis. Accessed from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scoliosis/basics/definition/con-20030140.   Accessed August 15, 2015.
  2. Kid’s Health: Scoliosis. Accessed from: http://kidshealth.org/kid/health_problems/bone/scolio.html.  Accessed August 18, 2015.

Photo Credit: donnierayjones Flickr via Compfight cc


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