As your child grows, so does his or her spine. And in most children, spines grow straight—but not always. Sometimes as it grows, your child’s spine can bend to the side and may even twist or rotate. This “s” or “c” shape curve of the spine is a condition called scoliosis.
About 2-3% of kids have scoliosis, which is around 3 million new cases each year in the U.S. Most cases of scoliosis occur during early adolescence when growth spurts are common.
The earlier scoliosis is caught and treated, the better the odds of stopping the disease from causing real problems down the line. The good news is parents can easily check for signs of scoliosis at home.
What are common symptoms of scoliosis in children?
There are a few telltale signs of scoliosis in children. Here’s what to watch for in your child:
- Uneven shoulders and shoulder blades
- Uneven hips
- Ribs that are prominent or stick out in one area
- Prominent muscles in lower back or that bulge on one side
- Unequal distance between arms and body while standing
- Uneven skin folds at the waist
“Surprisingly, back pain isn’t usually a symptom that appears in children and teens. So, if pain is a prominent complaint, we have to thoroughly examine the spine to see what else may be contributing,” says Dr. Jaren Riley, orthopedic surgeon and pediatric scoliosis expert at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. Always best to check with your child’s physician.
How is scoliosis diagnosed?
If you suspect your child has scoliosis, ask your child’s pediatrician about if a scoliosis screening is warranted. An x-ray is typically performed to confirm a diagnosis of scoliosis, which we usually define as a lateral, or sideways, curve of the spine that’s more than 10 degrees. Again, early detection gives your child the best chance of timely intervention.
How worried should I be if my child has scoliosis?
Scoliosis is not usually a serious disease - but it can be. A severe curvature can lead to long-term disability and in very rare cases may reduce the amount of space in chest, making it more difficult for the lungs to do their best work. All children - even those with mild scoliosis should be monitored closely by we well-trained and experienced scoliosis physician like Dr. Jaren Riley at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.
What are the treatment options for scoliosis?
Treatment for scoliosis varies depending on the severity of your child’s curvature, age and a number of other factors. It can range from simply keeping an eye on your child’s spine to wearing a back brace or even corrective surgery in severe cases.