What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is commonly called curvature of the spine. The spine is usually straight. In scoliosis the spine is curved sideways in either an S or C shape. It is common in the period when children grow quickly in late childhood and early adolescence.

What are the symptoms of scoliosis?

In addition to the abnormal curvature of the spine, the affected child may appear to be leaning to one side, have uneven shoulders and hips and problems standing straight not caused by poor posture but rather due to an abnormal rotation of the spine.

What causes scoliosis?

There are four types, each with a different cause.

  • The most common type is idiopathic scoliosis. This type is generally mild. 30% of cases have a family history of scoliosis. 80% of cases occur between the ages of 10 and 18.
  • Scoliosis caused by another disease such as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy or other conditions.
  • Congenital scoliosis is present at birth and is caused by the abnormal development of the spinal vertebrae.
  • Degenerative scoliosis affects older people and is caused by degenerative disc disease.

How is scoliosis diagnosed?

Idiopathic scoliosis is usually diagnosed in puberty. During your child’s consultation your Ortho Illinois orthopedic surgeon will take a full medical and family history, perform a physical examination and x-rays to view the spine. More imaging tests may be ordered in more severe cases.

How is it treated?

Treatment depends upon the type of scoliosis diagnosed and the degree of the curve. In idiopathic scoliosis small curves that do not cause symptoms can be watched. In moderate cases bracing may be recommended. When the curve worsens it can cause damage to the spine and joints, cause pain and result in arthritis of the spine or even affect the lungs. Serious cases may require surgery.

In Illinois the schools are no longer required to check your child for scoliosis. If you suspect your child may have scoliosis it is important to have them examined by an orthopedic surgeon. The goal is to measure the curvature and prevent it from worsening.

Dr. Scott Ferry is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Ortho Illinois. Born and educated in Illinois and a compassionate and kind doctor with specialized training in pediatric orthopedics at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Contact Dr. Ferry to schedule a consultation at our Algonquin Clinic or our Rockford-Roxbury Clinic.