Scoliosis in children is a three-dimensional curvature of the spine that most often is diagnosed in adolescents. It occurs when the spine becomes rotated and curved sideways. Adolescence is the period when rapid growth occurs, therefore, the detection of a curve at this stage should be monitored closely for progression as the child’s skeleton develops.
Adolescence, in Latin, means ‘to mature’. It is the phase of transition between childhood and adulthood from ages 10 to 19. Children entering this phase go through changes such as physical, personality, intellectual, and social development. It is the unique stage of human development that lays the foundation of good health. It is a vital period that determines how a person will interact and view the world as an adult.
Scoliosis in children is classified by age:
- Infantile – Children of age 0 to 3 years with infantile scoliosis
- Juvenile – Children of age 3 to 10 years suffer from juvenile scoliosis
- Adolescent – Children of age 11 and older or from the onset of puberty until skeletal maturity face adolescent scoliosis.
What are the types of Scoliosis
About 80% of adolescent scoliosis comprises idiopathic scoliosis cases. A vast majority of cases come to the light during adolescence. Depending on its severity and child’s age, scoliosis is monitored by close observation, bracing, or surgery. Three most common type of scoliosis are:
Idiopathic – It means that there is no definite known cause or that there is no single factor that contributes to the development of scoliosis.
Congenital – It results from a spinal defect that occurs at birth. It is usually detected at a much earlier age than any other form of scoliosis.
Neuromuscular – The spinal curvature develops due to the effect of another disease such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy. It tends to progress quicker than others.
Symptoms of Scoliosis
Signs of scoliosis include:
- Uneven shoulders
- One shoulder blade appears more prominent
- An uneven waist
- One hip higher than the other
- One side of the rib cage sticks out
- A prominence on one side of the back while bending
Although most cases may be mild, some curves worsen as the child grows. Severe scoliosis can be disabling. A severe spinal curve can reduce the room for space within the chest, making it difficult for the lungs to function properly.
Complications with Scoliosis
Children with mild scoliosis are observed closely, usually with X-rays, to check if the curve is getting worse. In most cases, no treatment is necessary. Some children will require to wear a back braces to stop the curve from worsening while others may need surgery to straighten severe curves.
While most children with scoliosis suffer from the mild form, it may sometime lead to complications, such as:
- When the rib cage gets pressed against the lungs, it makes breathing difficult.
- Children with scoliosis are more likely to have chronic back problems and pain as the become adults if the abnormal curves are large and remain untreated.
- A shift in the waist and trunk to the side, uneven hips and shoulders and prominent ribs can be noticed as scoliosis worsens.
Treatment for Scoliosis
Children with mild scoliosis, may not need treatment. Instead, you will be observed, and X-rays will be taken once in a while to see if it’s getting worse. Although some children grow out of scoliosis with time but if your child needs treatment, consult a doctor immediately so that early treatment can help to prevent future complications.
After a confirmed diagnosis of scoliosis and assessment of factors such as spinal maturity, degree, and extent of curvature, curve location, the possibility of curve progression, and more, the following treatment options may be recommended:
- It is done until scoliosis has reached about 25 degrees. Every 4 to 6 months, an X-ray of the spine is done to check the progress.
- If scoliosis has progressed past 20 or 25 degrees, wearing a back brace around the torso can stop the curve from getting worse.
- If the curve continues to progress, surgery could be considered.
Approximately 85% of children identified with idiopathic scoliosis have curves that never progress enough to require bracing or surgery.