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True or False? Misconceptions About Childhood Scoliosis

Scoliosis is an abnormal, sideways curvature of the spine, usually in an S-shape or C-shape. You may recall being checked for scoliosis in school as a child. Parents often worry when their child is diagnosed with scoliosis, but many know very little about this condition. There is also a lot of misinformation out there about scoliosis. How do you know what is true and what is false? I’m here to set the record straight about some of the most common thoughts about scoliosis.

1. Scoliosis is a problem for children; it will not progress into adulthood.

False. While scoliosis is typically detected in children, it is not a condition you can “grow out” of. It is a common belief that the curvature in the spine will stop progressing once a person reaches adulthood, but the curvature in the spine can actually increase with age. Most cases of scoliosis are not severe, and the curvature will usually progress minutely. Treatment methods like exercise and bracing can help to slow or stop the progression of the curvature, but cannot technically “cure” the condition. Patients with scoliosis will need to be monitored throughout their lives to ensure that the condition does not worsen.

2. Scoliosis will result in severe deformity.

False. While it is possible for scoliosis to result in a debilitating deformity, most with scoliosis will not develop any severe deformity. Because the condition often progresses minutely over time, most will not develop any noticeable deformity. However, it is important for those with scoliosis to get checked periodically to make sure the curvature isn’t progressing too quickly, which could indicate more severe problems in the future.

3. My child’s heavy backpack probably caused the scoliosis.

False. While too-heavy backpacks can cause back pain and posture problems, there is currently no reputable peer reviewed scientific evidence that suggests that backpacks cause scoliosis.

4. I’ve read that my child’s scoliosis can be from lack of proper nutrition.

False. In fact, most cases of pediatric scoliosis are idiopathic; there is likely a strong genetic link. As a parent, you of course want to be able to do whatever you can to prevent these types of conditions in your child, but be mindful that if you were diagnosed, the condition can be inherited. There is a higher rate of scoliosis seen in female children than males. Therefore, there is a higher rate of mothers and daughters within the same family having this condition. However, with early detection and the proper care, most patients will not have any severe deformity from scoliosis.

5. Surgery is the only way to correct the curvature caused by scoliosis.

True. Nonsurgical treatment methods such as exercise and bracing can help to slow or stop the progression of scoliosis, and can help to relieve the back pain associated with the condition, but these methods cannot fix the curvature in the spine. However, surgery is generally only necessary if the curvature in the spine is severe and interferes with the patient’s quality of life. If surgery is necessary, advances in surgical methods have made for a safe and effective procedure, with much shorter recovery times than were associated with scoliosis surgery in the past.

Many schools will check for scoliosis, but if you suspect your child may have scoliosis, have him or her evaluated by a medical professional. Early detection of scoliosis can help to prevent progression of the condition.