The spine is made up of a stack of vertebrae that normally appear in a fairly straight line. When scoliosis is present, the spine has a sideways curve that can appear as an S or C. The condition is usually present in children and adolescents. Most cases of scoliosis are mild, and a small curve will likely not cause major problems. More severe cases of scoliosis can have more debilitating effects.
Causes and Risk Factors
There are several types of scoliosis that are caused by different things.
- Idiopathic scoliosis causes 80-85% of scoliosis cases and the cause is unknown. It tends to run in families, but there is nothing that can be done to prevent the condition. Signs and symptoms usually present themselves prior to puberty.
- Congenital scoliosis begins to affect the spine before birth. The vertebrae do not form completely or separate properly. Because abnormalities are present at birth, congenital scoliosis is usually diagnosed at a younger age than idiopathic scoliosis.
- Neuromuscular scoliosis occurs when another condition that affects the nerves and muscles leads to scoliosis. This is commonly due to muscle imbalance and/or weakness. Common neuromuscular conditions that may lead to scoliosis include cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or a spinal cord injury.
- Uneven shoulders
- One shoulder blade that is more prominent than the other
- One or both hips appear raised or unusually high
- Uneven waist
- Head does not appear centered with the rest of the body
- Asymmetric ribcage
Most children with mild scoliosis will not require any treatment. Your doctor will likely monitor your child closely every four to six months to make sure there are no changes in the curvature of the spine. If your doctor is concerned that the curve may worsen over time, they may recommend bracing. A brace can help prevent the curve from getting worse as your child continues to grow.
More severe cases of scoliosis may require surgery to reduce the severity of the curve and prevent it from getting any worse.