What is scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine. In most cases this curvature develops during childhood and adolescence. The spinal column curves and twists, rotating the rib cage as it does so and eventually causes changes to the spine, chest and pelvis. A slight curve of the spine is a common condition. Scoliosis may result from a birth defect or develop later in life, most
often in adolescence. Usually, the cause cannot be found. The spine usually bulges toward the right when the curvature is in the upper back and to the left when it is in the lower back. The result is that the right shoulder is usually higher than the left. One hip may be higher than the other. Scoliosis often develops in children with kyphosis (kyphoscoliosis).
Scoliosis is a long-term (chronic) disease that has the potential to worsen over time. For 90 per cent of children, this will correct itself in time. However one in ten children need treatment. For these children, early diagnosis is vital - if the condition is not treated, a child’s heart and lungs will not work properly as the twisted rib cage will not allow them enough space to develop. Three in 1,000 teenagers with scoliosis will need hospital treatment, usually for corrective surgery. Sometimes a curved spine that develops during infancy or early childhood may go unnoticed and untreated until the teenage years. The abnormal position of the spine can affect the development of muscles and ligaments associated with the spinal column, causing the ribs and pelvis also to twist and rotate to the side. Usually scoliosis is painless. Most cases are mild, requiring only follow-up and observation. In more severe cases, the spine can rotate as well, resulting in prominent ribs on one side of the body and narrowed spaces between ribs on the other. Severe scoliosis can cause ongoing back pain and difficulty breathing. Surgery may be necessary.