Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine, which can occur in both children and adults. Scoliosis refers to a side to side curvature of the spine. Kyphosis refers to a front to back curvature of the spine. Often times, scoliosis and kyphosis will present together.
In children, it is important to diagnose scoliosis early in life. As children reach their rapid period of growth during puberty, the curve is most likely to increase at a very rapid pace. When curves are diagnosed early, treatments can be begun to stop or slow the curve from progressing. This can usually be done without an operation if diagnosed early enough. Some scoliosis in children is so severe that it may require surgery. Some scoliosis also progresses despite treatment such as bracing. These may also require surgery.
Signs of scoliosis are an asymmetry of the back or shoulders, poor posture, uneven scapula or shoulder blades, uneven fold around the waist, uneven leg lengths or shoe sizes.
There is a strong family history with scoliosis. Therefore, if a parent or grandparent has had scoliosis in the past, the parents should be aware of their children possibly having this condition. If scoliosis is suspected, the child should be evaluated by an orthopedic physician.
Scoliosis can also occur in adults. Adult scoliosis can occur as a continuation of childhood scoliosis or as a natural process of aging. Scoliosis in adults is usually more painful, but it does not progress as quickly as it does in children.
Treatment is usually conservative for adults. This includes medication, proper physical conditioning, and sometimes physical therapy and/or bracing. Surgery is sometimes needed because of adult scoliosis. This is usually the last course of treatment used. If scoliosis is suspected in an adult or child, an orthopedic physician should be consulted for evaluation.