What are the symptoms and signs of scoliosis?
Often, scoliosis is first noticed by a friend or family member. Because the change to the curve in the spine happens gradually and always begins as a smaller curve, it may go unnoticed by the individual. As the curve becomes more severe individuals will begin to notice that their clothes do not fit the same or that pant legs are shorter on one side than the other.
The most common sign of scoliosis is an abnormal curve of the spine. While a healthy spine when viewed from the side has a natural curvature, when viewed from the back the normal spine appears as a straight line. However, an individual with scoliosis will appear to have a lateral (side-to-side) curve in their spine when viewed from behind.
Scoliosis may cause the head to appear off center or one hip or shoulder to be higher on one side of the body. You may have a more obvious curve on your back on one side of the rib cage from the twisting of the vertebrae and ribs. If the scoliosis is very severe, it can make it difficult for the heart and lungs to work properly. This can cause shortness of breath and chest pain.
There are certain types of scoliosis that can cause back pain. When back pain is present with scoliosis, it may be because the curve in the spine is causing stress and pressure on the spinal discs, nerves, muscles, ligaments, or facet joints. If your child has pain associated with scoliosis, it is very important that they see a doctor to find out what is causing the pain.
Signs of Scoliosis
In children and teenagers, scoliosis often does not have any noticeable symptoms. The curvature of the spine often does not cause pain, and if it is mild, it can go unnoticed. Without an x-ray of the spine, there are several common physical signs that may indicate scoliosis. It can also be found on a routine school screening examination for scoliosis. One of the most common tests for detecting scoliosis is called the Adam’s Forward Bend Test, in which the individual bends from the waist as if touching the toes.
The screener then observes for one or more of the following signs of scoliosis.
Scoliosis symptoms and signs in children:
- Shoulders may not be of the same height (one is higher than the other)
- Head is not centered directly above the pelvis
- Rib Cage is not symmetrical; ribs may be at different heights
- A shoulder blade is higher and more prominent (sticks out more) than the other
- One hip is more prominent or higher than the other
- The individual may lean to one side
- One leg may appear shorter than the other
- The waist appears uneven
- Clothes do not fit/hang properly
If you suspect that your child has scoliosis or have noticed any of the aforementioned signs, it is important to have an exam conducted by a scoliosis professional for proper diagnosis and possible treatment options.