4 facts to know about scoliosis

4 facts to know about scoliosis

Scoliosis is a common condition where a person’s spine is curved, affecting between two and three percent of the New Zealand population.

This condition is sometimes hereditary and primarily affects school-aged children, especially among girls.

What are the signs of scoliosis?

According to New Zealand Scoliosis, common signs of this condition include one shoulder being higher than another, the head not being centered over the body, and an obvious curve in the spine.

Here are four facts you should know about this unusual condition.

1. Most types develop just before puberty

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, the most common form of scoliosis, is most commonly detected between the ages of 10 and 15. 

If asymmetry is detected in a child’s shoulders, shoulder blades, spine, or pelvis, seeing a paediatric spine specialist is recommended. The specialist can then perform an X-ray so the doctor can measure the degree of curvature in the spine.

2. Early treatment is key

Detecting the condition while children are young can help reduce the risk of the spine continuing to curve.

For children with spines that curve between 20 and 40 degrees, bracing may be needed if the spine continues to curve. However, one third of those with curves in this range do not progress further.

When the spine curves more than 40 degrees, surgery may be required to correct the spine.

3. Scoliosis isn’t just a cosmetic issue

Without treatment, scoliosis can worsen over time as the child grows up. In those with spines that curve more than 70 degrees, lung function can be impaired, while those with curved spines of 90 degrees or more may experience poorer lung and heart function.

4. You can still live a normal, active life with scoliosis

Luckily, there are new opportunities to treat scoliosis that didn’t exist only a few years ago that can reduce the need for surgery.

Additionally, minor curves are the most common form, with 3 adolescent girls per 1000 having a curve that requires surgery or a brace according to Scoliosis Australia.

Even for those who require surgery, treatments continue to evolve and have good outcomes.

“If your child has scoliosis, don’t be afraid of it,” said Michael Vitale MC, of Columbia University.

“The key is being aware of it and getting the diagnosis early so you can begin treatment. When treated early, there’s a lot of hope for stopping curve progression and allowing kids to live a perfectly active, normal life.”

Images: Scoliosis South Australia / Instagram