Scoliosis, a condition where the spine is curved sideways, also affects some children. It usually doesn't cause pain, but symptoms to look out for include uneven shoulders and leg length. Mild cases may only need regular monitoring by a doctor. But a child with a severe case of scoliosis may need braces and sometimes surgery.
Pediatric and adolescent scoliosis is a condition in which a child’s spine abnormally curves sideways or rotates. Scoliosis can range from mild to severe. People with mild scoliosis may only need to be seen by their doctor on a regular basis. Those with more severe cases may need braces or surgery.
About 2% of the population is affected by scoliosis. Scoliosis can affect people of any age, but it is most common in adolescents.
There are three different types of pediatric and adolescent scoliosis:
Scoliosis usually causes no pain, so symptoms can often go unnoticed. Parents or caregivers should watch for the following signs in their child:
If you notice any of these signs in your child, contact your doctor to have your child screened.
If you or a caregiver or teacher thinks your child may have scoliosis, contact your doctor as soon as possible. The doctor should also be screening for scoliosis on a regular basis and may be the first to suspect the condition.
An evaluation for scoliosis has several steps:
If your doctor determines that your child has scoliosis, he or she will refer you to an orthopaedic spine specialist for treatment.
The treatment for pediatric scoliosis depends on several factors:
Most children with scoliosis will have mild cases that only require monitoring every four to six months.
If your child's doctor notices that the spinal curve is getting worse, he or she may prescribe the use of a custom brace to prevent it from progressing even more.
If the brace does not control the spinal curve, or if the curve is severe when the child is first seen, surgery may be necessary. This is usually recommended when the spinal curve is more than 45 degrees. Surgery has been found to be a very effective treatment for severe scoliosis.
Yes. While it will not cure scoliosis, exercise might lessen any potential reduction in your child’s physical function over time. Keeping physically fit and exercising can also improve your child's overall sense of well-being and happiness.
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, the most common type of scoliosis, often occurs between the ages of 10 and 16 — just when many children are eager to jump in to a smorgasbord of middle school and high school sports and athletic programs.
But don’t despair. Playing sports won’t make scoliosis worse. In fact, participating in sports that promote flexibility and core strength can actually reduce your child’s back pain. Sports that can help scoliosis include:
Most sports, even weightlifting, are generally fine. However, if a child has had back surgery, they should avoid contact sports. These include hockey, lacrosse, wrestling and football.
For sports such as basketball, soccer, tennis and swimming, your child can probably start participating in them again about six months after surgery. But be sure to talk with your child’s doctor first.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/13/2018.
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