Scoliosis can affect all ages from infants to the elderly and every age in between. Parents need to be aware of the subtle early signs of scoliosis in children, especially as it’s a progressive condition with growth as its trigger.
A lot of scoliosis dialogue is centered around adolescents and adults, but it can also affect young children long before adolescence. Under the umbrella of pediatric scoliosis, there is also juvenile early onset scoliosis, and this condition type, I’d like to shed some light on.
As a progressive condition, being proactive with scoliosis treatment is key, especially in children who have not reached skeletal maturity.
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As mentioned, scoliosis affects all ages, and while adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 18, is the condition’s most-prevalent form, it’s important for parents to know that it also affects younger children.
Scoliosis is the development of an unnatural sideways spinal curve, with rotation; the rotational component makes it a 3-dimensional condition.
In addition, reaching a scoliosis diagnosis means the unhealthy lateral spinal curve also has to be of a minimum size: Cobb angle measurement of at least 10 degrees.
Cobb angle is a measurement that tells me how far out of alignment the spine is and classifies conditions in terms of condition severity:
Mild scoliosis: Cobb angle of between 10 and 25 degrees
Moderate scoliosis: Cobb angle of between 25 and 40 degrees
Severe scoliosis: Cobb angle of 40+ degrees
Very-severe scoliosis: Cobb angle of 80+ degrees
What parents really need to understand is that scoliosis is a progressive condition, meaning its nature is to worsen over time, especially if left untreated, or not treated proactively.
Regardless of where a scoliosis is at the time of diagnosis, it can get worse with growth and time; only proactive treatment can work towards counteracting the condition’s progressive nature, especially while the constant trigger of growth is active.
Scoliosis in kids means the spinal condition has developed, and been diagnosed, in young patients who have not yet reached skeletal maturity, which is an important factor because growth is the condition’s main trigger for progression.
Let’s start our discussion of child scoliosis with babies, and then work our way up through the age groups.
Scoliosis in babies is officially called congenital scoliosis because in these cases, infants are born with the condition.
When an infant is born with scoliosis, this means the scoliosis is caused by a malformation within the spine itself that developed in utero.
Malformations can involve a misshapen vertebrae; in a healthy spine, the vertebrae are rectangular in shape, which allows them to be stacked neatly on top of one another in a straight and neutral alignment.
If one or more of the vertebrae form into more of a triangular-shape, they can become wedged forward, their ability to remain aligned is disrupted, and the spine becomes malformed.
In some cases, vertebrae fail to form into separate and distinct vertebral bodies, becoming fused together instead, causing the spine to develop an unnatural spinal curve.
Cases of congenital scoliosis are rare, affecting approximately 1 in 10,000, and many babies born with congenital scoliosis also have other malformations so should be assessed comprehensively.
title="Pediatric scoliosis involves younger children 400" src="https://www.scoliosisreductioncenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Pediatric-scoliosis-involves-younger-children-400.jpg" alt="Pediatric scoliosis involves younger children " width="400" height="400" />Pediatric scoliosis involves younger children, who haven’t yet reached adolescence, and a condition type I’d really like parents to be aware of is juvenile early-onset scoliosis.
The reality is that most cases of scoliosis in children are classified as idiopathic, meaning not clearly associated with a single-known cause; however, just because we don’t always fully understand the condition’s etiology, doesn’t mean we don’t know how to treat it effectively.
Juvenile early-onset scoliosis affects children between the ages of three and 10. While adolescent scoliosis and infant scoliosis also fall under the umbrella of pediatric scoliosis, there are some key differences.
In some cases of infantile Idiopathic scoliosis (developing at around 6+ months of age and not caused by a malformed spine), research shows that mild curves can correct themselves, but there is no way to definitely predict which ones can resolve on their own, and which will progress with growth; monitoring these cases closely, for signs of progression, is recommended.
When a baby is born with scoliosis, these cases are congenital: caused by a malformation within the spine that developed in utero.
If left untreated, juvenile early-onset scoliosis is far more likely to progress throughout childhood, and even into adulthood; generally speaking, the more growth a child has to go through before reaching skeletal maturity, the more likely it is that their condition is going to progress significantly.
Growth and development is the condition’s main trigger for progression, which is why adolescents are also at risk for rapid-phase progression because of the stage of puberty characterized by rapid and unpredictable growth spurts.
As juvenile early-onset scoliosis involves patients who have not yet reached their first adolescent growth spurt, the condition should be taken seriously; while there are no treatment guarantees, early diagnosis, when responded to with proactive conservative treatment, does increase chances of treatment success.
When it comes to treating any type of scoliosis, with early detection, there are fewer limits to what can be achieved, but this is particularly true of patients under the age of 10.
I want parents to be aware of this so they can watch for early condition indicators so scoliosis can be diagnosed and treated when the condition is going to be at its most responsive and chances of treatment success are the best.
Typically, the earliest condition indicators in children are postural changes such as uneven shoulders and hips.
Diagnosing scoliosis in a child early in the condition’s progressive line means there is time to develop an effective and customized treatment plan, and as scoliotic curves tend to progress over time, the sooner the condition is detected, the sooner proactive treatment can be started.
When scoliosis is diagnosed before the first major pubescent growth spurt, there is a lot of potential for achieving significant curvature reductions and rehabilitating the spine.
What many parents ask is, how painful is scoliosis for children?
Child Scoliosis and Pain
Scoliosis doesn’t become a compressive condition until adulthood, or until skeletal maturity has been reached.
When the spine is growing, it’s undergoing a constant lengthening motion, and that counteracts the compressive force of the unnatural spinal curve, and it’s compression of the spine and its surrounding muscles and nerves that causes the majority of condition-related pain.
So for children and adolescents, back pain isn’t a common part of life with scoliosis, but adults experience scoliosis pain very differently; back pain and radiating pain throughout the body is the main symptom of scoliosis in adults.
For children and adolescents, while they can experience varying degrees of muscle pain, back pain and nerve pain aren’t common condition indicators; again, while each case is unique, the condition’s earliest signs, in children, are often postural, such as uneven shoulders and hips.
When it comes to proactively treating scoliosis in children, this means combining monitoring for progression while applying treatment that works towards reducing the unnatural spinal curve on a structural level, bracing and/or casting when appropriate, and increasing core strength for increased spinal support.
So when it comes to scoliosis and children, what parents should know is that as a progressive condition, it’s virtually guaranteed to get worse over time.
When it comes to what causes scoliosis in children, the majority of cases are idiopathic; when it comes to what causes scoliosis in children to progress, the answer is growth and development.
While scoliosis is most closely associated with adolescents and adults, it also affects infants and juveniles, long before adolescence is reached.
Congenital scoliosis develops in utero and is caused by a malformed spine.
Pediatric scoliosis refers to scoliosis detected in children younger than 10 years old, and as these patients are so young and have so much growth ahead of them, they are at risk for significant progression; growth is the condition’s main progressive trigger.
Juvenile early-onset scoliosis refers to scoliosis that develops specifically between the ages of three and 10, and when these cases are detected early, prior to the first adolescent growth spurt, treatment has fewer limits, and that is what parents need to know.
In the condition’s most-prevalent form, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 18, counteracting progression, despite the constant trigger of unpredictable growth spurts, involves reducing the curve on a structural level, corrective bracing, and increasing core strength for optimal spinal support.
Being aware of the condition’s early indicators can lead to early detection, which can lead to proactive treatment being applied when it’s most likely to be successful.
Regardless of condition type, the best time to start treating scoliosis is always now, and parents also need to know that different treatment approaches offer different potential outcomes, and not all cases of scoliosis need surgery; the reality is that most cases of scoliosis, especially those that are caught early, can be treated nonsurgically.
Here at the Scoliosis Reduction Center, I’ve treated children of all ages, and with a proactive conservative treatment approach that works to preserve as much of the spine’s natural function as possible, scoliosis can be highly treatable.