Scoliosis: Straight Talk About Curved Spines
Although all spines have a natural curve to them, some people develop a sideways curve, called scoliosis. Most people with scoliosis learn that they have it as a child or teenager.
What Does It Look Like?
Because mild scoliosis seldom causes pain in children and teenagers, it often goes unnoticed. Doctors look for these signs:
- Uneven shoulders
- Leaning to one side when standing
- One shoulder blade that is higher or stands out more than the other
- One hip that is higher than the other
- One side of the back that appears higher than the other when your child bends forward from the waist
Researchers aren't sure why mild scoliosis occurs. Scoliosis is not caused by:
- Carrying heavy bags or backpacks
- Consuming too little calcium
- Not standing up straight
"Occasionally, a person may have a curved spine because of another health problem, such as uneven leg lengths, a birth defect, polio or a disease that affects the back muscles or other tissues," says Eric Jamrich, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Sky Ridge Medical Center who specializes in scoliosis and other spine problems. "Sometimes, people who injure their spine may have temporary scoliosis. What researchers do know is that it can run in families, and that girls are more likely than boys to get it."
Studies have shown that most mild curves will not get worse as a child grows older. Only people who have severe curves by the time they are fully grown are likely to have curves that become worse as the years go by.
Care for Scoliosis
Most young people with mild scoliosis only need to be checked by a doctor every few years.
However, mild scoliosis may cause some children to feel embarrassed about having the defect. Parents should encourage them to exercise or get involved with a sport. Researchers believe that physical fitness can help improve children's self-esteem.
When doctors are worried that a child or teenager's scoliosis is severe, they may suggest more care. "Some children or teens may wear plastic or metal braces to stop curves from getting worse," says Dr. Jamrich. "And in some cases, children and adults may need surgery to reduce a severe curve."
Leading-Edge Spine Care
At Sky Ridge Medical Center, we perform more spine surgeries than any other hospital in Colorado. The Sky Ridge Spine & Total Joint Center is a 60,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that incorporates the vision of the state's leading neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons as well as the hospital's clinical team. The center features:
- The most advanced technology
- Experienced neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons and care team
- Education center
- Private entrance
- Enhanced recovery rooms
- The best recovery environment in Colorado