Adolescent Scoliosis Symptoms, Causes & Diagnosis | MedStar Health

Our expert orthopedic physicians include nationally recognized specialists in scoliosis back pain treatment. In addition, we partner with other MedStar Health specialists throughout the region to offer you a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach to your child’s treatment. We take the time to explain your child’s spinal condition and treatment options so that you can make the best and most informed decision moving forward. Whenever appropriate, our doctors encourage families to consider alternatives to surgery, including physical therapy and bracing. However, when surgery is the best option, our expert orthopedic surgeons are experienced in the full range of spinal repair surgeries.

What is adolescent scoliosis?

Most people with a healthy spine have a slight curve, which is natural. However, when a person’s spine is unnaturally and excessively curved, it is known as scoliosis. Most cases of scoliosis are diagnosed in children, which is known as infantile scoliosis, juvenile scoliosis, or adolescent scoliosis. These cases can often be treated early to prevent progression of the problem.

When left untreated, scoliosis in children can result in more severe effects, including:

  • Lopsided hips, shoulders, and waist
  • Protruding shoulder blades
  • Inability to stand straight
  • Bulge or bump on the back

What causes adolescent scoliosis?

The exact cause in children is often unknown, but it is sometimes caused by one of the following:

  • Injuries to the back
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tumors
  • Birth defects

What are the symptoms of adolescent scoliosis?

In most cases, your child will not experience pain associated with scoliosis, except in cases where the deformity causes increased pressure on the surrounding spinal structures. When this occurs, your child may experience a tingling pain known as sciatica. More commonly, your child may experience the following symptoms, which warrant a consultation with one of our doctors:

  • One hip lower than the other
  • One shoulder lower than the other
  • Flat waistline on only one side of the body
  • Lopsided appearance of ribs or head

How is it diagnosed?

We perform a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose and recommend treatment. A typical initial exam includes:

  • Medical history evaluation – This usually involves speaking with the child’s parents about prior health issues, symptoms, and family medical history.

  • Physical exam – Your orthopedic doctor will examine your child’s back, shoulders, arms, waist, and legs thoroughly, looking for signs of unevenness or other characteristics of scoliosis.

  • X-rays – Your orthopedist may also suggest X-rays or other imaging tests to help measure the exact location and severity of your child’s spinal problem.

How is it treated?

Adolescent scoliosis is manageable with conservative options, such as a spinal brace. In serious cases, our spinal experts may recommend spinal deformity surgery to repair the spine.