Scoliosis in Children: Everything You Need To Know

Scoliosis in children is not a very common problem, but it does represent a condition that should be given due attention. How do you recognize it? How do you treat it? In this article we'll tell you everything you need to know.
Scoliosis in Children: Everything You Need To Know

Last update: 28 July, 2020

Scoliosis in children is a serious problem that should be treated as soon as a doctor diagnoses it. This name is used for any deformations of the spine that appear in minors and that can have different degrees of severity and compromise.

In general, scoliosis in children tends to worsen as they continue growing. A misleading aspect of this situation is that children and adolescents usually tolerate this problem very well. However, if you let it continue it may require highly complex treatments later.

The most common form of scoliosis in children is called “idiopathic scoliosis.” This occurs in 4 out of every 1000 people. Of those cases, approximately 1% will be severe and will require long-term treatment. Children should have at least one annual orthopedic consultation, especially when they reach puberty.

What is scoliosis in children?

Scoliosis in children is defined as a problem with the curve of the spine that occurs in children. In fact, the column has a curvature, but it’s more pronounced in some children, and can look like the letter “C” or “S”. This abnormality sometimes causes pain and difficulty breathing.

When a child suffers from scoliosis, the spine moves to one side. This problem can lead to bones turning or rotating. If this happens, one shoulder or one side of the hip may be higher than the other.

Overall, there are several types of scoliosis in minors:

  • Scoliosis in children. This occurs in children younger than 3 years and may be a birth abnormality or congenital. However, it’s sometimes caused by other disorders or by unknown causes.
  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. This is the most common form and occurs in children older than 10 years old. Its cause is unknown.
  • Juvenile scoliosis. This form occurs in children between 3 and 10 years old and is the rarest form of all.
Doctor looking at x-ray and model spine, checking for scoliosis.
Scoliosis in children is a deformity in the spinal cord which can have a “C” or “S” shape.

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Causes and risk factors

In most cases, the cause of childhood scoliosis is unknown. However, we do know that it affects girls more than boys. According to the reason for it, scoliosis can be classified as follows:

  • Congenital scoliosis. This appears during pregnancy and includes various abnormalities such as the absence of vertebrae, malformations, or incomplete development.
  • Idiopathic. In this case, doctors don’t know why scoliosis happens.
  • Neuromuscular. This is a consequence of certain neurological conditions such as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, marrow tumors, neurofibromatosis, or paralytic conditions.
  • Others. In a few cases, scoliosis in children results from infections, injuries, tumors, legs of different lengths, or genetic diseases.

Symptoms and diagnosis of scoliosis in children

Each child may experience scoliosis symptoms differently. Even so, some symptoms appear in numerous cases. They are as follows:

  • The head isn’t located in the center, concerning the rest of the body.
  • Each arm hangs differently when the child is standing.
  • One of the shoulders or one of the hip areas is higher than the other.
  • If the child leans forward, one area of the back looks higher than the other.

In most cases, scoliosis doesn’t cause pain or other similar symptoms. Doctors normally make the diagnosis from clinical observation and often accompany it with an MRI or computed tomography (CT).

Doctor using a model spine to show a parent what scoliosis in children looks like.
In most cases, scoliosis doesn’t cause any pain and goes unnoticed. Doctors can make a diagnosis based on clinical observation.


The treatment of scoliosis in children depends on the age, the stage of growth of the child, the cause of the problem, the severity of the curvature, and the health of the child. Doctors also take into account their tolerance to available medications and therapies.

If the curvature is slight or the child is close to adolescence, usually they just do a follow-up to make sure that the condition doesn’t worsen. In these cases, or when the curvature is greater, they often use a corset. This prevents the curvature from increasing.

If the curvature is very pronounced, they may proceed to surgery to make the correction. If you don’t treat a severe case, it could lead to reduced lung capacity and the development of lung disease. Therefore, it’s a condition that deserves careful attention.

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  • Monsalve, C. Y. F., Corena, Z. M. G., & Samudio, M. P. O. (2007). Estudio de caso: terapia manual en una paciente de 18 años con escoliosis juvenil idiopática. Revista Ciencias de la Salud, 5(3), 78-90.
  • Garcia-Barrecheguren, E., Alfonso-Olmos-García, M., & Beguiristain, J. (2001). Defecto vertebral múltiple con otras anomalías acompañantes.
  • Pantoja, T. S., & Chamorro, L. M. (2015). Escoliosis en niños y adolescentes. Revista Médica Clínica Las Condes, 26(1), 99-108.