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Adolescent Ideopathic Scoliosis

Submitted by: Corey Vanderwouw, MPT

Bones are part of the wonder of our bodies. They continue to grow through puberty while supporting our body frames and providing us a solid structure from which to move. While growing, a child’s spine is forming into the structure which it will keep through adulthood.  


Although scoliosis can happen earlier than adolescence, Adolescent Ideopathic Scoliosis (AIS) is the most common type of structural scoliosis. It is defined a side-curve in the spine of children age 10 to 18, with cause of scoliosis not determined. A side curve means that the spine bends to the right or left, forming a persistent curve. Because AIS is something that can worsen during adolescence, it is important to watch out for scoliosis during a child’s growing years. The scoliotic curve actually has the likelihood of progressing the fastest during the period of a child’s fastest growth, which is during the years of puberty. If scoliosis is found, treatment is available to help prevent the structural curve from increasing, which would stay throughout adulthood.



Adolescent Ideopathic Scoliosis is more common in girls than it is in boys. AIS is more common in females, the ratio of girls to boys increasing with age. In addition, more severe curves are found with greater prevalence in girls than in boys.


Pediatricians typically screen for and monitor AIS. A typical screening test is called the Adam’s Forward Bend Test. Readers may remember having this test when they were kids. To perform the Adam’s test, the child starts in a standing position and bends forward. The screener looks at the child’s back to assess for symmetry. A common sign of scoliosis is when some of the ribs of one side seem to protrude more than those of the other side. A pediatrician would measure a curve with a tool called a scoliometer. Other signs that are sometimes, but not always seen in standing include: one shoulder being higher than the other, one hip being higher than the other at the waistline, a shift in the body to the right or left, or a seeming difference in right and left leg length.


It is common for adolescents to have no back pain caused from scoliosis. It is more common for adults with scoliosis to report symptoms including back pain, fatigue or muscle cramps. A scoliotic curve may complicate other back conditions as a person ages. In general, low back pain is not uncommon in adolescents. Many experience back pain due to decreased abdominal and back strength, poor posture or body mechanics.


There are various treatments for scoliosis. Your child’s pediatrician can talk with you about current treatments including observation of small curves, bracing and surgery for more extensive curves. There are many alternative treatments available, ranging from chiropractic, long duration bracing, to physical therapy training. As a physical therapist, I would recommend to iconsult our profession to see if we can provide you with some guidance.

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