There are lots of different types of scoliosis. Congenital scoliosis is when a baby’s spine vertebrae don’t fully form while they’re in the womb. Early onset scoliosis can have a variety of causes, but this kind of scoliosis is when a curve in the spine happens between birth and age 10. Degenerative scoliosis happens in adults, either because of a family history of scoliosis or simply wear and tear on the spine. Certain neurological disorders result in neuromuscular scoliosis (cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy). But the kind of scoliosis I’m talking about today is called adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS).
Out of all the different kinds of scoliosis, AIS is the most common today; about 4% of adolescents have it. It affects more girls than boys (in fact, girls are treated 10 times more often). The word “idiopathic” means that the cause is unknown. Researchers are still working to figure out the specifics, but here are some of the more popular theories:
Family history. Family genetics might play a role, since 30% of adolescents with AIS have a family history of scoliosis. Several researchers have suggested that a mutated gene on the X chromosome may play a role. Other scientists think that AIS may have to do with several chromosomes.
Muscle disorders. One study suggests a relationship between AIS and a primary muscle disorder involving platelet calmodulin (proteins that help with cellular metabolism). The researchers found that individuals with AIS had statistically higher levels of platelet calmodulin. If researchers conducted additional studies like this one on a larger scale and found similar results, doctors might be able to monitor platelet calmodulin levels and identify individuals who are at risk for AIS before its onset.
Growth anomalies. Another theory points at osteopenia (i.e., lower-than-average bone density) and the genes involved with skeletal growth.
Again, no one has definitive answers yet, but science is still searching. The good news is that if AIS is caught, there are treatments available to help.
Watch for These Red Flags
With AIS, there are some physical symptoms that can indicate its onset. You can easily see these symptoms either while the child is standing up straight or if they do a standard Adam’s Forward Bend Test (when the child bends at their waist to touch their toes, keeping their arms and legs straight). Here’s what to look out for:
- One shoulder is higher than the other
- One shoulder blade sticks out more prominently than the other
- One hip is higher than the other
- The waist looks uneven (one side looks more curved)
- The body leans to one side
- The head isn’t centered over the pelvis
If you think your child has AIS, schedule an appointment today with 360 Back and Spine by calling 682-223-1406. We’ll determine whether or not they have scoliosis and help you figure out the next steps.