Scoliosis

Not all spine surgeons treat scoliosis, so it's important to find a surgeon with experience in scoliosis surgery, like the highly skilled experts at Rush.

Not all spine surgeons treat scoliosis, so it's important to find a surgeon with experience in scoliosis surgery, like the highly skilled experts at Rush.

Not all spine surgeons treat scoliosis, so it's important to find a surgeon with experience in scoliosis surgery, like the highly skilled experts at Rush.

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine develops a side-to-side curve in an S- or C-shape. It can occur in both children and adults.

Scoliosis in adults can either result from existing scoliosis (from childhood) or develop as you age (known as degenerative scoliosis). In adults, the most common scoliosis symptom is pain.

In functional scoliosis, muscle spasms, inflammation or different leg lengths can cause spine curvature. In these cases, the curvature can go away, or resolve, if the underlying problem is addressed.

In children, scoliosis often does not cause any symptoms (such as pain) other than the curve in the spine.

When to Get Help for Scoliosis

For adults: Call your primary care doctor if your back pain is not relieved by rest, ice or heat, or over-the-counter medication within a couple weeks.

For children: Contact your pediatrician or visit a scoliosis specialist if your child has any of the following:

  • A curve in the back
  • The appearance that they are leaning to one side
  • Shoulders, shoulder blades and hips that seem uneven
  • The appearance of a rib hump on one side when you look at their back

If your primary care doctor or pediatrician suspects that you or your child has scoliosis, they may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon who specializes in treating spinal curvature disorders like scoliosis.

Care for Scoliosis at Rush

To help recommend the optimal treatment for you or your child, our specialists will do a thorough evaluation and consider a variety of factors, including the following:

  • Type of scoliosis
  • The degree of your curvature
  • Amount of pain (for adults)
  • Your or your child's age
  • The extent to which the curve is affecting your or your child's quality of life

Scoliosis Treatment for Children

  • Monitoring: If your child has mild scoliosis, they may only need periodic checkups to assess whether the curve is getting worse.
  • Scoliosis brace: A brace may be the best option if your child is still growing. The goal of the brace is to stop the curve from progressing.
  • Spinal fusion: If your child has a more severe curve, they may benefit from spinal fusion to straighten their spine. Spinal fusion repositions the spine into a straightened position using metal rods that are attached to the vertebrae (spinal bones).
  • Growing-rod procedure for young children: In young children, scoliosis specialists at Rush occasionally will use a single rod that allows for your child's spine to continue growing. This type of rod requires that your child return every six to nine months to have the rod lengthened to keep up with his or her growth. Once your child stops growing, scoliosis specialists at Rush remove the "growing rod" and perform a typical spinal fusion.

Scoliosis Treatment for Adults

  • Pain management: If you have scoliosis, the main goal of treatment is to relieve your pain. If your pain is minor or comes and goes, your scoliosis specialists may recommend one or more of the following:
    • Over-the-counter pain medication
    • Observation (working with your physician to monitor your pain)
    • Epidurals or nerve blocks, injections that disrupt pain signals by decreasing inflammation
  • Physical therapy: Exercises to promote flexibility and strengthen the core muscles in your abdomen and back can help you address pain. Additionally, physical therapy can increase your strength and flexibility to help you recover faster if you do need surgery.
  • Surgery: For both children and adults, your surgeon may recommend scoliosis surgery if you have a severe curve that continues to worsen despite wearing a brace.
    • Rush scoliosis specialists use surgery to relieve nerve pressure (lumbar laminectomy) or help fuse together segments of the spine (lumbar fusion), depending on your symptoms.
    • Scoliosis specialists at Rush can often perform lumbar fusion and laminectomy as outpatient procedures using minimally invasive approaches. Minimally invasive scoliosis surgery often allows for less pain, shorter recovery and a faster return to normal activity.

Rush Excellence in Scoliosis

  • Scoliosis expertise: Not all spine surgeons treat scoliosis, so it's important to consult with a surgeon who has specific experience in scoliosis surgery. Rush scoliosis specialists at Rush have more than 50 years of experience treating children and adults with scoliosis and other spinal curvature disorders. Our surgeons also helped to develop minimally invasive scoliosis correction.
  • Nationally ranked programs: U.S. News & World Report ranked Rush University Medical Center No. 4 in the nation for neurology and neurosurgery, and No. 5 in the nation for orthopedics. Both programs are also ranked best in Illinois.

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