In children and teens, scoliosis typically does not cause symptoms and is not obvious until the curve of the spine becomes moderate or severe. It may first become noticeable to a parent who observes that the child's clothes do not fit right or that hems hang unevenly. The child's spine may look crooked, or the ribs may stick out.
In a child who has scoliosis:
- One shoulder may appear higher than the other.
- One hip may appear higher than the other.
- The child's head is not centered over his or her body.
- One shoulder blade may stick out more than the other.
- The ribs are higher on one side when the child bends forward from the waist.
- The waistline may be flat on one side.
Most of the time scoliosis does not cause pain in children or teens. When back pain is present with scoliosis, it may be because the curve in the spine is causing stress and pressure on the spinal discs, nerves, muscles, ligaments or facet joints. It is not usually caused by the curve itself. Pain in a teen who has scoliosis may indicate another problem, such as a bone or spinal tumor. If your child has pain associated with scoliosis, it is very important that he or she see a doctor to find out what is causing the pain.
Adults who have scoliosis may or may not have back pain. In most cases where back pain is present, it is hard to know whether scoliosis is the cause. But if scoliosis in an adult gets worse and becomes severe, it can cause back pain and difficulty breathing.
Some other conditions, such as kyphosis, cause symptoms similar to scoliosis.
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