Parents Top Scoliosis Questions Answered

What is scoliosis—and what are the best treatment options? This spinal condition impacts two to three percent (or six to nine million) children and adults, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). If your child or teen has a recent diagnosis or you think they may have this disorder, take a look at the top questions parents have about spinal curvatures.

Does the Spine Normally Curve?

Yes, the human spine does have normal curves. These curves are in the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle chest), and lumbar (lower) areas. Spinal curvatures help your body maintain its position and absorb movement-related stress or shocks. 

Even though the spine has natural curves that are necessary for you to stand, walk, or engage in other movements, some people experience abnormal sideways curvature—also known as scoliosis.

Why Does This Condition Happen?

More specifically, why would your child or teen's spine curve sideways? The AANS notes that nearly 80 percent of cases are idiopathic. This means there is no definitive or known cause of the curve. 

Some people are born with this condition. A congenital curvature of the spine can result from an embryological malformation during pregnancy. Congenital curves are typically detected early on in life, while idiopathic scoliosis is seen more often in the teen years. 

A third type of spinal curve disorder has a neuromuscular cause. As the name implies, this curvature is a secondary symptom of a neurological or muscular disease (such as spinal muscular atrophy, spina bifida, spinal cord injury, or cerebral palsy). 

What Are the Symptoms of A Spinal Curvature?

How do you know if your child has this condition? Scoliosis is not self-diagnosable. This means you need to schedule a doctor's appointment with the pediatrician if you suspect that your child has a spinal curvature. The signs to look for (and the symptoms the doctor will examine your child for) include uneven shoulders when standing, unusually high or raised hips (one side or both), the rib cage sitting at different heights (on different sides), or dimpling or color changes on the skin over the spinal area. You may also notice that your child's entire body leans to one side.

scoliosis doctor can physically examine your child and may order tests such as an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI to diagnose the curvature. 

What Treatments Are Available?

The specific treatment depends on the cause and the stage of growth your child is in. Some children with mild curvatures may only need observation over time. More severe cases may respond to back braces or require surgery.