From time to time, children and adolescents are told to “stand up straight”. Sometimes, the child just needs to practice proper posture. However, a change in stance, uneven shoulder height or a perceived inability to maintain a level hemline of the skirt of an adolescent girl may indicate a true spine deformity.
Scoliosis, or a sideways curve of the spine, is a condition that occurs in otherwise healthy children and adolescents, often with few if any symptoms. Some degree of scoliosis is relatively common. Very small curves may be detected in as many as two to three out of 100 people.
In younger children, the curve may be quite small, so you may not notice it. However, as the child grows, the curvature can become more severe. Because of this, most curves become more obvious during the adolescent growth spurt. Small curves occur with similar frequency in boys and girls, but girls are more likely to progress to the point of requiring treatment.
The underlying cause of scoliosis may sometimes be related to a defect in bone development or other conditions such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. However, the vast majority of cases are seen in healthy, active adolescents. Scoliosis can run in families, but the exact cause of most cases is not known.
Scoliosis does not usually cause any pain, so if you are concerned about a curve in your child’s spine, talk to your child’s primary care physician.