When Does Scoliosis First Appear?

Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine to one side of the body. It often happens just before puberty, but it can occur in infants and young children. Most cases are mild, but sometimes the curvature gets worse as a child ages and some teens need to wear a back brace or rarely have surgery to correct the curvature.

Idiopathic scoliosisIdiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of scoliosis, meaning the exact cause is not known. This condition usually occurs between age 10 and when the child stops growing in his or her late teens. Research shows 4-5% of adolescents in the United States have idiopathic scoliosis.

Mark E. Moran, M.D., a fellowship-trained pediatric orthopaedic surgeon with more than 25 years of experience diagnosing children and treating deformities of the spine, regularly performs spinal surgeries on children and teens to correct scoliosis.

Dr. Moran says scoliosis is more common than many parents realize. He adds, “It affects approximately 10% of young females, possibly 2% of young boys, so it’s not uncommon.”

What Causes Scoliosis in Children?

Scoliosis in children is sometimes caused by cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, but researchers are still working to learn more about the exact cause of the most common idiopathic scoliosis. Curves in the spine can occur in the lower back, but they are more frequent in the upper and middle back.

Risk factors for developing scoliosis may include:

  •  Signs often appear during growth right before puberty.
  •  Girls have a higher risk that their curved spines will worsen and need    treatment.
  •  Scoliosis can run in families, but most children with the condition have no family history.

What Are the Signs of Scoliosis in a Child?

Children may display some or all of the signs of scoliosis. The common scoliosis signs present in a child or teen include:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other
  •  Waistline is not even
  • One hip higher than the other
  • Ribs are more prominent on one side of the body

How do Physicians Treat Scoliosis in Children?

scoliosis in childrenChildren who have mild scoliosis are monitored with X-rays, to make sure the curve is not getting worse. Many times the child or teen needs no treatment. Some children will wear a back brace to correct the curve or to make sure it does not get worse. Rarely, others may require surgery to straighten the spine in severe cases.

Dr. Moran says, “It is uncommon for scoliosis to progress to the point where it needs treatment, which is usually physical therapy and bracing.  It’s extremely rare for the condition to require surgery.”

A severe spinal curve can reduce the amount of space within the chest cavity, putting pressure on the lungs. It can also press against the heart, making it more difficult to pump blood through the body. Adults who had scoliosis as teens are more likely to have chronic back pain later in life compared to adults who never had the condition.

Dr. Moran says his work is rewarding because he is able to put children and their parents at ease as they develop scoliosis treatment plans. He says children who require surgery heal quickly and get back to normal quickly.

He says most treatment plans for scoliosis do not involve surgery. He adds, “When surgery is needed, it should be safe, efficient but very rare.”

If you or someone you know needs any additional information about diagnosing or treating scoliosis, please feel free to contact us.