You watch with amazement as your child begins to blossom into a young adult and it’s all you can do to keep up with the changes — both physical and mental. Our goal here isn’t to add to your list of concerns, but any child can develop scoliosis and it’s worth understanding a little bit about this condition.
To that end, our team here at Texas Spine Consultants, which includes Michael Hennessy, MD, Robert Viere, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD, wanted to briefly touch on scoliosis so that you’re better able to recognize the signs, which can be subtle, at first.
Scoliosis by the numbers
Scoliosis affects about 3% of the population in the United States and it describes a three-dimensional, abnormal S- or C-shaped curvature in the spine, in which the spine can curve and rotate. Most cases of scoliosis are considered idiopathic, which means the condition develops for no known reason.
There are many degrees of scoliosis, which can range from mild to severe, and it often becomes evident in children and adolescents — 80% of idiopathic scoliosis cases are juvenile scoliosis.
The reason for this is that kids develop quite quickly before, during, and shortly after puberty, and the changes in the spine become increasingly evident during this developmental time.
Scoliosis ranges from mild to severe and we measure the condition in degrees. A sideways curvature of 10 degrees or more is considered scoliosis. From there, we divide scoliosis into:
- Mild — a curvature of 10-25 degrees
- Moderate — a curvature of 25-40 degrees
- Severe — more than 40 degrees
Treatment options depend on the degree of curvature.
Signs of scoliosis
Scoliosis can be tough to spot when your child is younger but, as they grow, the symptoms may grow more obvious.
Some of these signs of scoliosis include:
- Uneven shoulder set
- Uneven hips
- One leg appearing slightly longer than the other
- Clothes that hang unevenly
- One shoulder blade that’s more prominent than the other
- One side of their ribcage pushes forward
It’s important to note that scoliosis isn’t often painful, unless it becomes severe. That said, you may notice that your child is more tired than usual, which can be due to their back muscles having to work harder.
It’s also important to recognize more subtle signs of a problem, such as your child becoming more hesitant to be seen without clothing. Children often hide problems that set them apart, so it’s important to watch out for the outward signs of scoliosis we list above.
In severe cases, the scoliosis will be visible in their backs (with or without clothing) and your child may experience back pain and even difficulty breathing as the curvature affects the function of their lungs.
It’s tough to say here how we may address your child’s scoliosis, as it depends entirely upon the severity of the curvature. In most developing cases, we take an approach of watchful monitoring so that we can step in with bracing if the curvature starts to worsen. In severe cases, we might recommend spinal fusion
Ultimately, the best way to tell whether your child may have scoliosis or not is to come see us for an expert diagnosis. To get started, contact one of our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to set up an appointment.