Spinal curvature affects boys and girls

Q: My kids go through a scoliosis screening every year. All the students line up at the nurse's office for a quick exam. What exactly is scoliosis?

A: Scoliosis is a C- or S-shaped curve in the spine that is greater than 10 degrees. These days, it is a relatively common condition: Curves in the spine of this magnitude are seen in about 3 percent of the population.

Symptoms of scoliosis include a child who appears to have uneven shoulders or shoulder blades, an uneven waist or appears to be leaning to the side when standing straight.

Typically, scoliosis does not cause back pain, but for a small number of children, severe spinal curves can cause discomfort and can lead to other health problems, possibly affecting the lungs, heart and joints. Infrequently, dramatic curves in the spine may require treatment such as a back brace or surgery.

Scoliosis can develop in children from birth to adolescence, or any time when the spine and skeleton are experiencing a rapid growth period. Mild scoliosis impacts an equal number of boys and girls, however girls are more likely to develop progressive spinal curvature that requires more aggressive treatment. While the condition cannot be prevented, early diagnosis can lead to early treatment, which may reduce the curve in a child's spine.

Always consult your child's pediatrician concerning your child's health.

For more pediatric health news parents can use, visit our blog: 700childrens.nationwidechildrens.org.

Walter Samora, MD, is director of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Residency Program at Nationwide Children's Hospital.