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The spine is normally straight. Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves and twists to the side. The spinal curve typically develops over time. With scoliosis, a child may have a hump on her back, an uneven shoulder, or one side of her chest may appear larger. These physical changes are related to the twisting of the ribs and spine. It is important for your child to see a doctor as this condition will get worse without treatment.

Causes & Risk Factors

  • Unknown reasons
  • Genetic
  • Paralysis or neuromuscular issues

Symptoms & Types

Scoliosis is not associated with back pain. The only symptoms are visual and cosmetic cues. There are three types of scoliosis: idiopathic, congenital, and neuromuscular scoliosis.

  • Idiopathic scoliosis
    Doctors do not know what causes idiopathic scoliosis; however, it tends to run in families, and it is not present at birth. Idiopathic scoliosis occurs more in girls than in boys and usually gets worse during the growing years of ages 11 to 15. It cannot be prevented, but the curve can be controlled with bracing and/or surgery.
  • Congenital scoliosis
    This type of scoliosis is present at birth. It usually worsens as your child grows. Your doctor may suggest surgery to prevent the curve from getting bigger and from causing other health problems.
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis
    Scoliosis can also develop in children or young adults with other diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other conditions involving the nerves and muscles. Some of these diseases weaken the muscles around the spine, and other conditions affect the spinal cord causing the spine to curve. Surgery is sometimes the best treatment but this depends on multiple factors. 

Diagnosis & Tests

To accurately diagnose scoliosis, x-rays are taken of the spine. The curve can affect the lower (lumbar) and/or the upper (thoracic) area of the spine. If there is a curve seen on the x-ray, the doctor will measure the curve in degrees. An MRI or CT scan of the spine may be recommended.

Treatment & Care

The degree of the curve, the type of curve, and age of the person determines the type of treatment that will be recommended. Based on these findings your doctor will discuss the treatment options that are best for your child. Treatment may include observation, bracing, surgery or a combination of all three.

Living & Managing

Children can attend school and participate in all activities without limitation.

Video courtesy of the Growing Spine Foundation