Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine, resulting in a C or S shape rather than a straight line.
In most cases, the cause is not known. It may be related to a birth defect, disease or infection. Scoliosis typically develops before puberty, although it may not be diagnosed until teen years. Scoliosis is classified on the age at diagnosis:
- Adolescent scoliosis: 1-17 years old
- Juvenile scoliosis: 3-10 years old
- Infantile scoliosis: younger than 3 years old
Children are often screened at school and during routine well visits. For anyone experiencing symptoms or with a medical history that could cause scoliosis, a physician will do a physical exam of the back, shoulders, chest, pelvis, legs, feet and skin.
Additional tests may include an X-ray or MRI, a curve measurement (curves greater than 20 inches require treatment), or referral to a spine doctor.
The type of treatment for scoliosis depends on the person’s age, how much more they are likely to grow, the degree of the curvature, and whether the person has back pain. Children with a mild spinal curve usually do not need treatment. Doctors may simply monitor the curve every three to six months.
In some cases bracing will be used to prevent the curves from worsening, and in severe cases, surgery may be needed.