Scoliosis Symptoms & Causes

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What are the signs and symptoms of scoliosis?

Because of the many possible combinations of curvatures, scoliosis can look different in different children. Common signs and symptoms of scoliosis may include:

•   uneven shoulder heights
•   head not centered with the rest of the body
•   uneven hip heights or positions
•   uneven shoulder blade heights or positions
•   prominent shoulder blade
•   when standing straight, uneven arm lengths
•   when bending forward, the left and right sides of the back
    are asymmetrical

Symptoms that suggest scoliosis can resemble those of other spinal conditions or deformities or may result from an injury or infection.

Congenital scoliosis treatment at Boston Children's HospitalWhat are the causes of scoliosis?

There are several causes of abnormal spinal curves:

•   In many cases, as in idiopathic scoliosis, there’s no
    definite cause for (or way to prevent) the spine’s
    failure to grow as straight as it should.
•   Some babies are born with spinal formation problems
    that cause the spine to grow unevenly. These include
    congenital scoliosis
    congenital kyphosisspina bifida or Klippel-Feil anomaly.
•   Some children have nerve or muscle (neuromuscular)
    diseases, injuries or other illnesses that cause spinal
    deformities, such as cerebral palsyspina bifida or 
    muscular dystrophy
. In these conditions, muscle
    abnormalities combined with the child’s growth result
    in deformity.


Other causes of scoliosis may include:

•   bone dysplasias: many generalized abnormalities of bone formation are associated with scoliosis
•   connective tissue disorders: conditions with abnormal tissues and ligaments, such as Marfan syndrome and
    Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
•   differences in leg lengths: mild leg length differences may cause a slight curvature but rarely cause a serious
•   spinal cord injury with paralysis
•   infection
•   tumors

How are children with scoliosis cared for?

As your child grows, your orthopedist will monitor her curve through regular check-ups. Be sure to follow the regular well-child checkup schedule. Encourage her to participate in sports and/or school activities. These will add greatly to her general health and sense of well-being.

What is the long-term outlook for children with scoliosis?

Most children and teens diagnosed with scoliosis can look forward to normal, active lives. The outlook for your child greatly depends on the nature and severity of her scoliosis and her age, since the amount of time remaining for her to achieve complete bone growth plays a big factor. Early diagnosis and early treatment can improve the outlook for children with many types of scoliosis.

Read some of our scoliosis patient stories.

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