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Understanding scoliosis

Your spine has three small curves. The 1st curve is in your neck, the second in your upper back and the third in your lower back.

In a healthy spine the curves should go from front to back. A spine affected by scoliosis will curve from side to side.

Scoliosis isn't caused by poor posture or bad lifting habits. Most cases have no known cause. Other cases are caused by bone abnormalities, muscle disease or nerve problems.

Whatever the cause, researchers haven't found a way to prevent it.

Regular checkups are important

Many cases of scoliosis are mild and require little or no medical treatment, according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

The best way to keep mild scoliosis from getting worse is to detect it early and watch it closely.

Scoliosis rarely causes pain or other symptoms in its early stages, according to the APTA. But as the problem grows worse it could cause:

  • Back pain.
  • Loss of flexibility.
  • Trouble standing or sitting straight.
  • Increased risk of arthritis, respiratory infections and heart problems later in life.

Treating scoliosis

Treatment for scoliosis depends on how severe the problem is.

Mild curves. If your child has mild scoliosis, the doctor or physical therapist may prescribe exercises to improve the flexibility and strength of the muscles that support the spine. Your child will also need regular checkups to make sure the problem isn't getting worse.

Moderate curves. Curves that are getting worse may need treatment with a back brace or a scoliosis jacket, along with exercises. Kids who wear a brace or scoliosis jacket should be able to take part in sports and other normal activities.

Severe curves. The worst cases of scoliosis may need treatment with surgery. Early detection and treatment, however, can help prevent scoliosis from getting to this stage.

reviewed 5/26/2016

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