Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine—in addition to the normal front to back curvature—has an abnormal side-to-side “S-” or “C”-shaped curvature. The spine is also rotated or twisted, pulling the ribs along with it to form a multidimensional curve.
The Scoliosis Research Society defines scoliosis as a curvature of the spine measuring 10 degrees or greater on x-ray. The condition isn’t rare. It mainly affects girls—many of whom have mild forms of scoliosis, are never even aware of it, and never need treatment.
Three to five children out of every 1,000 develop spinal curves that are considered large enough to require treatment. Idiopathic scoliosis does tend to run in families, although no one genetic link has been confirmed.
Treatments can include:
Simple observation and monitoring: Once an abnormal spine curve has been detected, it’s important to monitor the curve as the child grows. In many cases, your child’s curve may require only close monitoring while her spine grows. Your physician will determine your child’s treatment plan and follow-up based chiefly on her x-rays and physical exams.
Physical therapy: Scoliosis can often be helped by physical therapy. Our physical therapy team’s goal is to maximize your child’s physical functioning. Our therapists work closely with specialists in our Spinal Program to also provide exercise programs and additional therapies to address pain and the muscular imbalance that can be associated with spinal abnormalities.
Bracing: If your growing child’s curve shows significant worsening or is already greater than 30 degrees, your physician may recommend a bracing program, in which a scoliosis brace is designed specifically for your child’s particular curve. The brace holds your child’s spine in a straighter position while she is growing—to partly correct the curve or to prevent it from increasing. This may help avoid the need for surgery.
You can have peace of mind knowing that the team in the Boston Children’s Spinal Program has treated a large volume of spinal problems that few pediatric hospitals have seen—and can provide expert diagnosis, treatment and care. Scoliosis is not usually a life-threatening condition, and most children grow up to lead normal, active lives.