Scoliosis in kids – what to look for

Scoliosis – What is it?

Scoliosis is defined as a sideways bending of the spine greater than 10 degrees, accompanied by vertebral rotation. This means that the spine has a “left/right” bend that may look like an “S” or “C” shaped curve. Once the angle of that bend (measured on X-ray) gets to 10 degrees we call it a scoliosis.

It is often first noticed in childhood and adolescence, particularly during the rapid spinal growth period around the same time as puberty (11-14 years of age). It can lead to spinal deformity, pain (although in children and adolescents it is rarely painful) and spinal degeneration.

Scoliosis is more common in girls than boys and 2-4% of the population are thought to have a scoliosis, with 10% of these requiring intervention (bracing or surgery). 85% of cases of scoliosis are idiopathic (no clear understanding of an underlying cause). Idiopathic scoliosis also has a tendency to run in families. Occasionally a scoliosis does have a more serious underlying cause and this is why it is very important to have scoliosis assessed by a health professional with good understanding of scoliosis.

What to look for in your child

Signs that your child may have a scoliosis and should be screened by a health professional include:

  • Uneven shoulder height
  • Uneven looking shoulder blades
  • Asymmetrical waist creases
  • Asymmetrical rib cage obvious when they bend forward
  • noticeable “C” or “S” shape of the spine when you look from behind.

Periods of growth in a child’s life are times when a curve may progress. Early detection and accurate monitoring of a curve is important to ensure that your child  gets the best possible care at the right time.  

Treatment of Scoliosis

Generally curves under 20 degrees should be monitored. Some corrective exercises can also be used to try and halt or minimise the progression of the curve. Curves above 20 degrees require more intervention with bracing and if the curve is much greater, possibly surgery. There is no evidence that any non-surgical treatment can reduce curves greater than 60 degrees.

There are a few different bracing options available depending on the degree of curve. The object of bracing is to slow down the progression of a scoliosis and in some cases reduce the degree of the curve.

Surgery is done to stop the progression of a severe scoliosis and potentially help prevent some of the complications that can be associated with a severe scoliosis.

If you notice any asymmetries or changes in posture in your child, please don’t hesitate to contact the clinic for an assessment by one of our qualified Osteopaths.