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Doctor asks girl about pain in back.

Scoliosis: Keep an Eye on Your Child’s Spine During Pandemic

Author: Children's Surgical Specialty Group, Dr. James Bennett
Published Date: Monday, April 5, 2021

By Dr. James Bennett, Children's Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

While the world has focused on the curves in COVID-19 rate charts, another type of curve may be going unnoticed.

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves, or even twists and rotates, and is often identified during well-child visits with pediatricians or during screenings by school nurses.

Many children are learning virtually this year. As a result, school screenings for scoliosis may not be taking place. Fewer children are in sports, so coaches and physical education teachers aren’t able to identify the signs, and some families have put off well-child visits.

Parents and caregivers need to be watchful for signs of the condition because it can worsen quickly, especially during growth spurts. The sooner scoliosis is detected, the more conservative treatment options are available. This is important because in some instances, if the curve progresses it may require surgical intervention.

What is scoliosis?

For most children, the spine grows straight as they mature, but for some, the spine can grow into a curve to the side in a “S” or “C” shape. This condition affects approximately 3% of the population, and is typically diagnosed when children are between 10 and 15 years old. Both, boys and girls can develop a curvature of the spine, but it is more common in girls.

What to look for:

  • Uneven shoulders.
  • One shoulder blade protruding more than the other.
  • Ribs that are more prominent on one side.
  • Unequal distance between the arms and body.
  • Uneven waistline or difference in hip height.
  • Muscles that are prominent in the lower back or that bulge on one side.
  • Uneven folds at the waist.
  • Clothes hang unevenly or fit awkwardly.

What’s next?

Talk to your pediatrician. An X-ray can confirm the diagnosis of scoliosis, which is defined as a curve of 10 degrees or more. If your child has scoliosis, they will need to be referred to our spine specialists at CHKD. Some children just need to be monitored over time, while others may need medical treatment such as physical therapy, bracing, or surgery.

Untreated scoliosis can cause chronic back pain, heart and lung problems, and spine curves that can worsen during adulthood leading to compromised function. Early detection is key to preventing a lifetime of medical issues.

For more information about scoliosis visit the CHKD Scoliosis Website or contact our spine coordinator, Dallas Seitz, RN, at (757) 668-6562.


The Adams Bend Forward Test

Dr. John Birknes of Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters Spine Program performs the Adams Forward Bend Test on a patient to give an example of proper testing for scoliosis.



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About Children's Surgical Specialty Group

About Children's Surgical Specialty Group  Our surgeons provide outstanding surgical services for children who come to our main hospital as well as those who come to our surgery centers. CHKD is a world leader in thoracic surgery and home to the Nuss Procedure to correct pectus excavatum. At CHKD, we treat the big things, the little things, and everything in between. Our surgical specialists treat children for a wide variety of conditions, from congenital to infectious to traumatic. All members of CHKD Surgical Group have met stringent requirements and received certifications in their specific area of pediatric surgery.