Scoliosis is an abnormal lateral or sideways curve of the spine. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, scoliosis affects 2-3 percent of the population and typically develops early in childhood. Scoliosis, diagnosed as mild to severe, can be disabling and affect organs, such as the lungs, causing them not to function properly.
Scoliosis can be congenital, occurring during a child’s formation as an embryo, or neuromuscular, resulting from a neurological or musculature disease. Neuromuscular scoliosis is typically associated with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida and progresses more quickly than the milder forms of scoliosis.
Symptoms of scoliosis vary and are visible in different forms, such as:
- Uneven shoulders or waist
- Hip higher on one side
- A hump on one side of the back when bending over to touch the toes
- Body leaning to one side
Treatment can range in various ways, from observation to bracing and surgery. These treatments also vary depending on the severity of scoliosis.
Continued observation or monitoring is required as a child grows because there is potential for the lateral curve to worsen. In mild cases of scoliosis, like when the spine has a slight curve and the child is still growing, observation is a typical treatment.
Back bracing is an option for children, typically between 11 and 15, who have not yet reached skeletal maturity. If worn 16 to 23 hours a day, bracing can serve as a safe treatment option and help decrease the rate of the lateral curve progress. This treatment can provide optimal results while reducing the overall spinal deformity.
Surgery, typically performed when the spinal curve is greater than 40 degrees, is an option for severe cases of scoliosis. Because severe scoliosis happens over time, the surgery will help straighten the spine’s curve and prevent the curve from worsening. The surgery can result in a more improved quality of life for the individual and provide a pain-free life.