Adolescent Scoliosis

Adolescent scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine occurring during adolescence. Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that is usually diagnosed in adolescence and can often be corrected so that a child or young adult can go on to become a healthy adult. Though a healthy spine has a normal vertical curvature, enabling us to sit and walk upright, it will have a straight lateral structure. Treatments for this type of condition include conservative methods such as back braces and physiotherapy, to surgical interventions. While some individuals may develop this problem due to injury, adolescent scoliosis is normally a congenital condition. Adolescent scoliosis may continue into adult scoliosis if this condition is not corrected.

Adolescent scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine, and on a standing X-Ray the spine may take on the shape of a C or S or question mark. On a normal standing X-Ray, the spine would look normally straight. This condition is often congenital, and present at birth, or may develop as the adolescent develops. The spine may curve during development due to an injury, spinal muscular atrophy, cerebral palsy, or spina bifida. The treatment for this problem will be based on the age of the person, and the source of their injury. Often, the prognosis for this condition is good.



A patient's signs of adolescent scoliosis may become apparent from complaints of pain and discomfort to more obvious signs of posture abnormalities. A patient with scoliosis may appear to have one leg that is taller than the other or one hip or shoulder may appear higher than the other. If the condition is bad enough, an observed may be able to see that their back is "crooked". The patient may walk with an abnormal gait. Other more serious effects on a person with this condition may include pressure on the heart, reduced mobility, and even a diminished lung capacity.

Though conditions such as Marfan's syndrome are known to cause scoliosis, the exact cause of most people's scoliosis is unknown. Some people may just be genetically predisposed.

A person's adolescent scoliosis will usually be diagnosed during routine MD physicals. During a routine exam, a patient will be asked to remove his shirt and bend forward. If the person giving the examination notices a prominence, he or she will usually order an X-Ray (radiography) to confirm the suspected condition and to see the severity. If physician confirms the condition, he/she will also look for direct causes of the problem such as cavovasus deformity or neurofibromatosis. The specialist will usually order a standing, weight bearing X-Ray, because the abnormal curvature may become more pronounced in a person when they are standing and actually putting weight on their spine.

Though all species have a risk of developing this problem, humans have an increased risk because of our upright position and the amount of weight we put on it. Treatments for adolescent scoliosis include physical therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic, various back braces, and surgery in more difficult cases. Back bracing involves fitting a patient with a device that covers their torso. These types of devices are designed to eliminate the lateral curvature of the spine.