Causes & Treatments for Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a curve in the spine. You can usually spot scoliosis in a child by looking at her spine closely from several angles. Since the condition commonly affects children right before they hit puberty, your child’s school may offer yearly screenings during middle school or her doctor may examine her spine. The condition straightens out on its own with time, or your child may need varying degrees of treatment.

Causes of Scoliosis

The cause of most cases of scoliosis is unclear, according to MayoClinic.com. Some other cases may be caused by another medical condition, though. A child who has one leg that is shorter than the other may have what is called functional scoliosis, according to MedicineNet. This type of scoliosis is not caused by the spine. In other cases, conditions, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, can cause scoliosis, since the spinal bones do not form properly.

Features of Scoliosis

When a child has scoliosis, her spine usually resembles an “S.” Scoliosis generally causes the shoulder or hip on one side of the body to be higher than the other. If the condition progresses, a person’s spine may twist outward as well, causing one side of the rib cage to be thrust forward. Scoliosis can worsen if a child still has a great deal of growing left to do, according to MedicineNet. If the rib cage juts outward, it can cause heart or lung problems for the child. Children with untreated scoliosis may develop back pain or arthritis as adults.

Diagnosing

In some cases, a doctor or school nurse can diagnose scoliosis by examining the child’s spine. He may have the child bend over from the waist, as if to touch her toes, to examine the spine more closely. If the scoliosis is more severe, a doctor can diagnose it by looking at the unevenness of the child’s hips and shoulders, according to MedicineNet. If a mild case is suspected, an X-ray or other imaging may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Considerations

For some unknown reason, girls are more likely to develop scoliosis than boys, according to KidsHealth. The condition is most likely to appear between the age of 10 and 14. If you have a family history of the condition, your child may be at further risk of developing scoliosis.

Treating Scoliosis

Fortunately, most cases of scoliosis are so mild that treatment is not necessary. Her doctor will simply monitor the spine to make sure the condition does not grow worse. Some children with scoliosis may need to wear a back brace, especially if they develop the condition while still growing. The brace will prevent the curve from growing worse, but it will not make it go away. Scoliosis that is caused by another condition, such as a shortened leg, may be treated by treating the underlying condition, according to MedicineNet. If the condition is severe, spinal fusion surgery may be needed to decrease the curve and stop progression of the condition.

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