If you look at a picture or model of a skeleton, you can see that the human spine curves at the top, or cervical spine, then middle or thoracic spine, and near the bottom, or in the lumbar spine. Those curves occur in what’s called the “sagittal plane,” and they exist to keep your head over your pelvis when you’re standing and to absorb shock when you move. When your spine curves in a different way, you may have a condition called scoliosis. Around six to nine million people in the United States have scoliosis, and it’s usually diagnosed in early adolescence.

The orthopedic specialists at Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates have the knowledge and skill to treat patients with scoliosis, but we understand that it can be a frightening diagnosis. In this post, we describe what constitutes scoliosis, as well as what kinds of treatments are available for the condition.

A diagnosis of scoliosis

Some people have a slight curve to their spine and never even know it. A person with a 10-degree curvature is diagnosed with scoliosis, but experts don’t always recommend treatment.

Because scoliosis usually becomes apparent while a child is still growing, there’s a good chance that the curve won’t worsen, the person won’t have any symptoms, and no treatment is necessary. Our doctors generally recommend monitoring the spine as your child grows, which simply means having an X-ray every few months. At this early stage, you may not be able to tell that your child has scoliosis at all. Sometimes, though, the shoulders may be slightly uneven, or one of their hips may be raised, their rib cage may look uneven, or there may be an unusual texture or appearance of the skin over the spine. A relatively low percentage of children have back pain at an early stage of scoliosis, and often it’s related to some other problem.

A worsening curve

If monitoring reveals that your child’s spine is becoming more curved, your provider may recommend that they wear a brace. Bracing can prevent the curve from becoming worse.

Generally, it’s recommended that a child wear a brace until they stop growing. Several types of braces are available, and the best one for your child depends on the severity and location of the curve, among other factors.

It can take some time to get used to wearing a brace, but most of them can be worn underneath clothing and aren’t visible, and they can usually be removed for playing sports, showering, or other activities. Most of the time, your child will need to wear the brace between 16 and 23 hours each day. Researchers have found that when children wear their braces as directed, it stops the curve from worsening in about 80% of cases. Your doctor will want to continue monitoring to make sure the brace fits properly and is working.

Straightening the spine

In the most severe cases, especially those with curves that are more than 45 degrees, surgery may be the best solution. During surgery to correct scoliosis, your doctor straightens the spine so that the curve is less than 25 degrees and fuses vertebrae to keep the spine in a straightened position.

The specifics of how the surgery is performed depend on numerous factors, including the severity of the curve, whether or not it has caused nerve damage, and whether other procedures will be performed at the same time.

If your child has scoliosis, or you have reason to suspect they might, schedule an appointment at Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates. Effective treatment is available.

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