I Think My Teen May Have Scoliosis

From the moment they exit the womb, children are on a race toward adulthood, physically and mentally. As you anxiously follow their growth, you notice that something may be amiss with their spine. You’re concerned, especially considering that three million cases of scoliosis are diagnosed each year, largely among adolescents.

Before you jump to conclusions, the team here at Texas Spine Consultants want you to have the facts about scoliosis. In the following, spine specialists Michael Hennessy, MD, Robert Viere, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD, review what scoliosis is, what signs to look out for, and what your next steps should be.

Scoliosis basics

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine develops an abnormal lateral curve and it most often becomes evident among preteens and teens. In fact, 80% of idiopathic scoliosis occurs among adolescents (idiopathic means that the cause is unknown).

Under normal conditions, the spine has three natural curves located in your cervical, thoracic, and lumbar areas. When scoliosis develops, there’s an abnormal curvature and the most common is a lateral, c-shaped curve that usually goes from the mid- to lower back. Uncommonly, a double curve can develop.

Scoliosis is measured in degrees — the larger the degree of curvature, the more problematic the scoliosis may become. Technically, we consider any curvature of 10 degrees or higher as scoliosis, but the problem is typically only noticeable when the curvature goes beyond 20 degrees.

Signs of scoliosis

Many cases of scoliosis aren’t noticeable at first, especially if the curvature is between 10 and 20 degrees. In these cases, we may only notice the problem after an X-ray of your child’s spine.

If the curve continues to worsen and bends beyond 20 degrees, you may notice:

In moderate-to-severe cases of scoliosis, your child may experience pain or trouble breathing.

Treating scoliosis

When it comes to scoliosis, early detection and intervention are key. If we diagnose scoliosis, we treat the problem according to the degree of the curvature, the developmental stage your child is in, and the effects the condition has on your child’s quality of life.

For example, if we discover mild scoliosis, we typically take a watchful approach to the problem with frequent check-ins to see if the condition worsens.

With mild-to-moderate cases of scoliosis, we may recommend bracing, which can help reduce further curvature as your child continues to grow.

With severe cases of scoliosis (typically 40 degrees or higher), we can turn to a surgical solution to help straighten your child's spine.

If, after reading this, you suspect your child may have scoliosis, the most important step is to contact one of our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to set up an appointment.

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