adolescent; scoliosis; spine; curvature; spinal; curve; bent ;
What is scoliosis?
- The normal spine has three curves, one in the neck, one in the upper back, and one in the lower back. These curves can be seen from the side, but when you look from behind, the spine should appear straight.
- If the spine has a sideways curve, this is scoliosis (sco-li-o-sis).
- About 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 girls develop some scoliosis during their growing period in early adolescence (from about 9 to 14 years), but in most cases the curve is small and does not need treatment. Scoliosis is less common in boys.
- Only about 3 in 1,000 children have curves that are large enough to need treatment.
What causes scoliosis?
- The cause of most scoliosis is not known. This is called idiopathic scoliosis. Sometimes other people in a family also have idiopathic scoliosis.
- In some children there are other problems, such as an injury causing muscle spasm, an injury to the spine, unequal leg lengths or problems with muscle control (eg cerebral palsy) causing the sideways bend of the spine. If these can be treated the scoliosis will go away.
- Young people will need to get someone to check their back, they cannot do this themselves.
- First get them to stand up straight, with their feet together and arms hanging by their side. The person looking at the back checks to see if:
- one shoulder is higher than the other
- one shoulder blade is higher or sticks out more than the other
- one hip sticks out more than the other.
- Then they need to bend forward with their legs straight so that their hands are near to their feet. The person looking checks to see if one side of the back is higher than the other.
- Sometimes with scoliosis, one side of the back may be higher at the top of the back, and the other side may be higher in the lower back.
- If there are any of these signs of possible scoliosis, young people need to have their back checked by a doctor.
- If the scoliosis is more than a mild curve, X-rays will be done to measure the curve, and they will be repeated later so that changes in the curve can be picked up.
- Sometimes the curve is so large that a doctor will recommend treatment straight away.
Treatment for scoliosis
- Most scoliosis very slight, and needs no treatment.
- Small curves may be watched during the child's growing period to see if they get larger - most don't get large enough to need treatment.
- If the curve is large, or it is getting larger, and treatment is needed, the results of treatment are very good, especially when the curve is found early.
- A spinal brace may stop a curve from becoming worse. The brace needs to be worn for most of every day for more than a year.
- An operation is needed for some severe curves.
- Physiotherapy and chiropractic treatment cannot cure scoliosis.
- Untreated severe scoliosis can cause back pain and breathing problems. It also can look unattractive.
- People with scoliosis need to exercise normally and stay fit for their general health and wellbeing. Their spine is not 'weak', and there is no need to stop any exercise.
Checking girls for scoliosis
Each year in July and August all schools in Australia are contacted and asked to give out to, all girls in years 7 and 9, a 'Self detection brochure' telling their parents or carers how to check the girl's back to see if she has signs of scoliosis.
Some years ago there were programs in some parts of Australia where nurses went to schools to check the spines of girls in years 7 and 9. However these programs were shown not to be effective.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.