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Scoliosis

Condition: Scoliosis means there is a curve in the spine. Usually the curve is side to side or “S” shaped.   

Background: The most common type of scoliosis is called “idiopathic,” which means the cause is not known. About 2-3% of people have this type, usually with mild curves of the spine. Another 0.3% of people have larger curves. Some people are born with a spine that did not form properly. This is called “congenital” scoliosis.

Risk Factors: Scoliosis is seen mostly in girls over age 10. In younger children, both boys and girls may be affected. Even babies (usually boys) may have scoliosis. Scoliosis sometimes runs in families. It can also occur after a spinal cord injury or in people with other muscle and nerve disorders.

History and Symptoms: Spinal curves tend to get worse during a girl’s growth spurt and beginning of puberty. It can continue to get worse even into the adult years. When scoliosis comes on quickly or the curve is very large, or if there is pain, it is probably not the idiopathic type.  

Physical Exam:  The rehab physician/PM&R physician will look for signs that puberty has started. He/she will also look to see if the shoulders are different heights and how much the spine curves when the patient bends forward with straight knees. Skin markings, balance, body shape, and movement will also be assessed.        

Diagnostic Process: There are no blood tests for scoliosis. X-rays of the spine will show the amount of curve in the spine. Other tests may be done if other conditions are suspected.

Rehab Management: Bracing, along with exercise, is the main way of treating scoliosis. Surgery is only used in severe cases.    

Other Resources for Patients and Families: Children and teens may be unhappy or self-conscious about how they look or about wearing a brace. A psychologist or social worker can help deal with these issues.     

For Patients and Families:

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