FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a curve in the spine.

 

2. How can you tell that I have scoliosis?

Sometimes it is not noticeable, but you might see that one shoulder or hip is higher than the other, one shoulder blade is more prominent, or that your trunk and waist are not equally balanced.

 

3. What causes scoliosis....carrying a heavy backpack, not drinking enough milk, poor posture?

No, scoliosis isn't caused by anything that you did or didn't do.  Scoliosis is a genetic condition.

 

4. Does scoliosis hurt?

Adolescents with mild to moderate scoliosis do not have any higher incidence of back pain when compared with adolescents that have back pain but no scoliosis.  If it isn't treated, scoliosis can cause an array of health problems later in life.

 

5. How common is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is present in two to three percent of the population.

 

6. Does scoliosis run in families?

Scoliosis is a genetic condition most common in girls. At this time, scientists are working to identify the specific genetic markers of DNA that indicate scoliosis.

 

7. Is there a way to tell if my scoliosis will get worse or not?

At this time, it isn't possible to know whether scoliosis will continue to get worse, though part of the current genetic research is trying to find an answer this question.

 

8. Can I still exercise if I have scoliosis?

Yes, staying active is important to your overall health. There are no known exercises, sports, or specific activities that will make scoliosis worse or better.

 

9. What is the treatment for scoliosis?

There are three basic scoliosis treatment options: to monitor it with routine check-ups and x-rays, to wear a brace, or to have surgery.

 

10. Are there any alternative treatments that may help?

There is no scientific data that proves alternative methods such as chiropractic care, physical therapy, vitamins, etc., will affect the natural history or progression of scoliosis, but there is no evidence to suggest alternative treatments are harmful either.

 

11. What is the purpose of wearing a brace?

The purpose of wearing a brace is to prevent curves from getting bigger and therefore prevent surgery.

 

12. Will a brace make my scoliosis better?

Not permanently.  Curves are somewhat corrected by braces, but once the brace is taken off, the curves can return to their original form.

 

13. Do I have to wear the brace all of the time?

How you are instructed to wear a brace depends on the type of brace you are given, and the type of brace you are given is dependent upon the location of your curve.  Some braces are worn full time (between 20--23 hours per day), and some braces are only worn during sleep.  If you are wearing a brace full time, it is important that you remain active in any sports or physical activities you were already involved in.  You just remove the brace during these activities. 

 

14. How long do I have to wear the brace?

You should be instructed to wear the brace until you are done growing.

 

15. What is the goal of surgery?

The goal of surgery is to prevent scoliosis from getting worse and correct the curves as much as they can safely be corrected.

 

16. What kind of surgery will I need?

Spinal fusion with instrumentation depends on the location of your curve(s). Surgery is done through an incision on your side (anterior) or through an incision on your back (posterior). Some curve patterns can be treated by either method.

 

17. How long will I be in the hospital if I have surgery?

You will likely be in the hospital for five to seven days.

 

18. How much school will I miss if I have surgery?

You will likely miss three to four weeks of school following a spinal fusion surgery. 

 

19. When can I play sports again?

Opinions vary among surgeons, but most release people back to sports and other activities by one year after surgery.

 

20. What will the surgery scar look like?

While everybody heals differently, incisions tend to fade and become less noticeable over time. The goal is for it to heal as a flat, thin line that is the same color as your skin, but your surgeon will have to help you determine the answer to this question.

 

21. If I have metal in my back, will it set off alarms in the airport?

It's very unlikely that this will happen.

 

22. Will I need to have more surgeries later on?

Subsequent surgeries are unlikely, but it is important to keep your  post-surgery follow-up visits with your surgeon for at least two to five years to make sure your spine heals properly.

 

23. What if I decide not to have the surgery?

This is a very good question, but we recommend that you discuss this with your own surgeon.  Knowing the risks and benefits of not having surgery, as well as the risks and benefits of having surgery, will be important as you make decisions about your future.

 

24. Are my children going to have scoliosis?

It is possible that your children may have scoliosis, as there is a genetic component to this spinal deformity.  While there is a higher likelihood that your children will have scoliosis if you do too, it is possible that it may skip a generation or two.

 

25. How do I chose a scoliosis surgeon?

You should speak to your family doctor and other people in your area who may be familiar with scoliosis surgeons.  Your surgeon should have significant experience treating young people with scoliosis, should have performed many surgeries like yours, and should be comfortable discussing the procedure with you and your family.  S/he should also be a member of the Scoliosis Research Society and board certified with proper credentials.