Chad E. Aarons, MD, MPT, Tuckahoe Orthopaedics, Ortho, OrthopedicsBy Chad E. Aarons, MD, MPT

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of your spine, also considered your backbone. The cause of most cases of scoliosis is unknown.

In this post, I’ll answer some of our most frequently asked questions concerning scoliosis.

What are the common symptoms of scoliosis?

Back pain can be an indication of scoliosis but often it is not. However, there are a few warning signs that could indicate scoliosis as the root of the back pain. For example, when bending forward, a person may notice he has a lump on his back.

Depending on the type of curve, this bump could occur anywhere between the shoulder blades and the lower back. Pediatricians usually detect it during a test where the child is asked to bend over and touch his/her toes. The worse a spinal curve gets, the more likely it is to cause pain in the future.

At what age does scoliosis appear?

There are three types of scoliosis: congenital, neuromuscular, and idiopathic. The type of scoliosis a child has affects the age the symptoms are presented.

  1. Congenital scoliosis occurs when a child’s bones grow together and dont form correctly. It is typically seen in small babies and progresses early as the child grows.
  2. Neuromuscular scoliosis occurs in children when the musculature along the spine is not normal.  This can be because of conditions such as cerebral palsy or spinal cord injury.
  3. Idiopathic scoliosis occurs when a child enters puberty. The causes of this type of scoliosis are currently unknown.

How do you detect scoliosis?

Some school districts still have children perform the “bend forward” test. In addition, all pediatricians will perform the exam at a child’s annual check-up.  For a firm diagnosis to be made, an X-ray must be administered.  These are completed as the result of an initial concern from a child’s pediatrician.

What are the treatment options for scoliosis?

There are multiple treatment options for scoliosis, depending on the severity of the condition.

It’s important to note that any curve under 10 degrees is considered normal. Further, a curve between 10 and 25 degrees will usually not be acted upon as often these will not progress.

At 25 degrees, bracing is used to prevent the curve from getting worse.  With a 45 to 50 degree spinal curve, surgery will be performed.

Any preexisting curvature worsens as a child grows. If the curve is kept under 45 degrees until the child is done growing, it typically will not progress further. However, if the curve passes 45 degrees, it could continue to progress up to 1 degree per year. Thus, its critical to take action early and begin correcting the issue. Bracing prevents worsening of the curve, which hopefully will prevent the need for surgery.

Will scoliosis impact a child’s ability to play sports?

No, scoliosis should not prevent a person from doing anything in his/her life. In addition, exercise will not affect the curve or its progression either positively or negatively.

Is scoliosis genetic?

No one knows for sure. However, just because a parent has scoliosis does not mean it will be passed on to his or her children. In fact, most children do not have another relative with scoliosis.

If you have a specific question about scoliosis, we encourage you to schedule an appointment.