What is scoliosis?
Imagine if your backbone was a tree. It grows taller as you get older. Now imagine this tree starts to lean to one side as it grows, and the trunk of this tree starts to grow into a curvature, bending into your neighbor’s yard. When this happens in your backbone, it’s called scoliosis (pronounced “sko-lee-OH-sis.”)
No tree is perfectly straight, and even crooked trees are still healthy and growing. If you have scoliosis, it doesn’t mean you are sick. It just means you might need to have some help – like a growing tree – to straighten out your backbone as you grow taller. (We also call your backbone your “spine.”) You want to grow as straight as possible so that you can move and breathe properly when you’re an adult.
How will we find out if I have scoliosis?
If your doctor or your parents notice a little hump in your back when you bend over, you will have an X-ray taken. An X-ray is like a photograph of the bones inside your body. These pictures will tell your doctors how much your spine has curved.
What causes scoliosis?
Scientists don’t know why some people’s spines start to curve. We know that it is not something you inherit from your parents, like brown eyes or red hair. Girls are also are more likely to have scoliosis than boys.
What’s the treatment for scoliosis?
Depending on how old you are and how curved your spine is, doctors might recommend different treatments, or they might recommend no treatment at all. It depends on how big your curvature is and how much more growth you have left until you reach your full height. Treatments include:
Your doctor can connect you with another patient who has gone through scoliosis treatment so that you can talk to someone your age about what to expect.
If your spine has a little curvature in it and you still have a lot of growing left, your doctor might ask you to wear a brace. This is like wearing a stiff jacket under your clothes to keep your spine straight as you grow.
If you are born with scoliosis or your doctor thinks your spinal curvature might get worse, you will have a plaster cast made for your body. Similar to when you make a plaster sculpture in art class, this cast is made to wrap around your body and be worn all the time.
Sometimes a curvature in the spine is so serious that it requires surgery. This isn’t very common, but if your spine could eventually grow so curved that it will affect your breathing, your doctor will correct the curvature in surgery.