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612.775.6200

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Scoliosis

At Twin Cities Spine Center, our team has extensive expertise in diagnosing and treating scoliosis in both children and adults. Over 65 years ago, our practice was founded largely on the care and treatment of major spinal deformities, including scoliosis. Even back then, we were a destination for patients from all over the world who sought out our surgeons for lifesaving surgeries on major spinal curves that were so extreme that they were compromising patients' ability to breathe.

Here are just a few of our accomplishments:

  • We lead the development of many scoliosis studies, papers and medical books.
  • Our team initiated the practice of statewide school screenings for scoliosis to help identify the disease earlier, when it's most treatable.
  • Our founding physicians also started the Scoliosis Research Society, which is one of the most influential medical societies in regard to scoliosis.
  • Through our fellowship and visiting physician programs, we have trained other surgeons from around the world on the care and treatment of scoliosis.

Understanding scoliosis

Scoliosis is a disorder that causes the spine to curve abnormally. A healthy spine will appear straight when viewed directly from the back. By comparison, the spine of someone with scoliosis has a side-to-side curvature. In a person with severe scoliosis, the spine can resemble an S or C shape.

Most cases of scoliosis have no known cause. This is known as idiopathic scoliosis, and it's the most common form of the disease in children.

Adults who have scoliosis may have developed the condition in childhood. Another form of the condition, called degenerative scoliosis, happens as a result of osteoporosis, arthritis or disc degeneration. Degenerative scoliosis tends to occur after age 65.

Scoliosis can also be inherited, or it can develop as the result of an accident or disease.

Diagnosing scoliosis

At Twin Cities Spine Center, our spine specialists perform a variety of steps to diagnose or confirm a diagnosis of scoliosis. The process starts with gathering your full medical history in order to understand any issues like birth defects, traumatic injuries or other problems that could be contributing to the spine problem.

The specialist will also conduct a physical examination to evaluate your spine and the muscles in your back.

If scoliosis is suspected, x-rays may be done to confirm the diagnosis.

In many cases, people come to Twin Cities Spine Center after receiving a scoliosis diagnosis. The condition can be noted by a primary care physician or pediatrician during a routine office visit.

Scoliosis may also be diagnosed at school. School scoliosis screening involves the school nurse observing the child's back from different angles. If the nurse notices any change from the normal spine curves, parents will receive a notice directing them to contact their physician or an orthopedic spine surgeon for further evaluation of the curve.

Due, in part, to budget cuts in schools, scoliosis screenings are not done as commonly as they once were. It is important that children and adolescents be evaluated for scoliosis at well-child visits, sports physicals and other medical examination opportunities. 

Scoliosis symptoms

Should you or someone in your family be evaluated for scoliosis? Signs to watch for include:

  • An uneven hem line in clothing.
  • A noticeable curve when a child is in a bathing suit.
  • Clothes not fitting properly.
  • An elevated shoulder.
  • Uneven or shifted rib cage.
  • Back pain.

It's important to be evaluated if you notice these symptoms or any other changes or concerns about the curve of the spine. The earlier scoliosis is detected, the more treatment options there are available.  

Scoliosis treatment

The right scoliosis treatment depends on the severity of the curve and the person's age. At Twin Cities Spine Center, we start scoliosis treatment with conservative and nonsurgical approaches and move to surgery only when necessary. In 80 to 95 percent of scoliosis patients, surgery may be avoided if treatment is started when the abnormal spinal curve is small and while the child is still growing.

There are currently three main categories of treatment for scoliosis.

  • Observation. This is a common approach with children, who are still growing. The physician observes the child’s back over a period of time to determine if the curve increases with growth. X-rays are routinely done in addition to the physical examination.
  • Braces. Scoliosis braces prevent additional curving of the spine, but they won't make the spine straight again. Braces are used while a child is still growing and for small spine curves. When wearing the brace, children are able to participate in many activities. The TLSO brace and Milwaukee brace are examples of two types of braces.
  • Physical therapy. In certain cases, physical therapy may be recommended. 
  • Surgery. Scoliosis surgery straightens the curved portion of the spine as much as possible and holds it in place. Spinal fusion is frequently done to correct scoliosis. Spinal fusion welds the spine together and decreases the amount of the curve. Spinal instrumentation is inserted along the spine, which helps the bone grow together by holding the spine in place. Surgery is recommended for more severe curves which continue to progress despite bracing.