Conditions + Treatments

Scoliosis Frequently Asked Questions

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If my child has — or is developing — scoliosis, what should I ask her doctor?

Ask your Boston Children’s doctor:

•   What is happening to my child, and why?
•   What tests are needed to diagnose my child?
•   What actions might you take after you reach a diagnosis?
•   What will happen with growth over time?
•   Will there be restrictions on my child’s activities?
•   Will there be long-term effects?
•   What can we do at home?

How is a spinal problem usually detected?

Most spinal problems are detected by a child’s parents or pediatrician or by school screenings.

Is scoliosis related to poor posture?

No. Scoliosis is a spinal abnormality. It’s neither a cause nor a result of poor posture.

Does scoliosis hurt?

Most scoliosis isn’t painful in adolescents and children. There's the potential for significant risk of pain developing in adulthood.

Will scoliosis affect my child’s lungs and/or other organs?

The lungs may be affected by severe scoliosis, particularly early-onset scoliosis. But even a severe spinal deformity doesn’t usually affect the function of other organs.

Will my other children have spinal defects?

The possibility of a genetic component of spinal defects is still being studied. What’s known is that idiopathic scoliosis does tend to run in families. If you have a child with a spinal defect, it’s advisable to consult a geneticist, who can take a family history and discuss your particular situation.

When should I seek medical advice?

Scoliosis will usually become apparent as your child grows. Consult your pediatrician if her:

   •   shoulders are of uneven heights
   •   head isn’t centered with the rest of her body
   •   hips are of uneven heights or positions
   •   shoulder blades are of uneven heights or positions
   •   arms hang beside her body unevenly when she stands straight
   •   left and right sides of her back appear different in height when she bends forward

Who’s at risk for scoliosis?

Risk factors for developing the most common form of scoliosis (idiopathic) include:

   •   age—With the onset of puberty, during the maximum growth spurt, signs and symptoms of scoliosis may begin to
       manifest themselves.
   •   gender—Girls are five to eight times more likely than boys to develop scoliosis.
   •   heredity—Idiopathic scoliosis tends to run in families.

Click here to download the Scoliosis Glossary. 

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