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Who gets pediatric scoliosis?

Scoliosis affects about 2% of the population and is most common in adolescent females although it can affect people of any age. There are three types of pediatric scoliosis -- idiopathic scoliosis, that has no known origin but is found in families and has a genetic basis; congenital scoliosis, which is a rare abnormality and is detected at birth and neuromuscular scoliosis, which is caused by abnormalities in the muscles and nerves supporting the spine, often found in patients with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and muscular dystrophy.

Early diagnosis is key since early non-operative treatment in bracing can be successful. Symptoms of scoliosis can go unnoticed because it usually causes no pain. Parents should look for the following signs.  
  • Uneven shoulders
  • Constant leaning to one side
  • Uneven leg length
  • Prominent shoulder blade or shoulder blades
  • An uneven waist
  • Elevated hips

Pediatric scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine. According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 2-3% of the U.S. population have this condition. It can occur in adolescents, school-age children, and in children before the age of 3 years. Most cases are due to unknown causes, but some may be attributed to cerebral palsy, connective tissue disease, and musculoskeletal disease. Scoliosis can also run in families. 

About 3% of adolescents have scoliosis; occurring equally among genders. Girls with scoliosis require more treatment than boys. 

Typically, patients with scoliosis do not report any pain. Scoliosis is usually detected during routine school screenings or check-ups by a physician or nurse practitioner. This screening, called an "Adam's test", is done to check for a "hump" on one side of the back, a sideways curve, uneven shoulder or hips when they bend forward. 

With extreme cases, patients may complain of shortness of breath or back pain. 

If any of the signs of the screening conclude the child may have scoliosis, the practitioner may order an X-Ray or use a scoliometer to determine how large the curvature us. Any measurement larger than 10 degrees is generally considered scoliosis. 

Treatments vary and include bracing or surgery depending of the severity of the curve and the developmental stage of the child. Only about 10% of those with scoliosis require any treatment at all. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening every 2 years starting at age 10. 

Picture of scoliosis signs

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.