June is Scoliosis Awareness Month. The goal is to raise awareness about scoliosis while also uniting scoliosis patients, their families, and doctors. Scoliosis is the most common deformity of the spine. It is characterized by an abnormal curvature over 10 degrees, usually to the side. Most cases are idiopathic, meaning that there is no known cause of the deformity. It affects one in 40, or 7 million, people in the United States. If you know someone who was diagnosed with scoliosis, here are some things you should know:

  • Scoliosis normally begins in adolescence, between ages 10-15. More than 80% of scoliosis cases developed in adolescence. Although the cause of idiopathic scoliosis is still unknown, puberty is suspected to play a role due to children growing at a faster rate during this time. A scoliosis curve that is less than 40 degrees is not likely to keep on progressing once a person reaches skeletal maturity.
  • Scoliosis is easy to miss. There are sometimes no noticeable signs or symptoms of scoliosis in the beginning. A person with a 10-20 degree curve will probably not notice it. The abnormal curvature is usually noticed at checkups, school screenings, or by a trusted adult.
  • Continuous treatment is typically not necessary. A doctor’s appointment every four to six months until skeletal maturity has been reached should be enough. As long as the curve doesn’t progress more than 5 degrees in a 6 month time period, it most likely will not get any worse.
  • Braces can stop curve progression. A brace will be recommended if a curve has reached 25 degrees or more, especially if the child has more growing to do. Braces are currently the only nonsurgical treatment that has been shown to slow the progression of scoliosis.
  • Surgery is the last resort. In rare cases, a scoliosis curve that has progressed more than 45-50 degrees may need surgery. Although it is a major surgery, the procedure is fairly safe, and the outcomes are good.

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