Caring For You

Care at Every Age

Teenagers (13-19)

Scoliosis, or the side-to-side curvature of the spine, can progress at any age, though it is at highest risk of progression during the adolescent growth spurt. Many medical providers will screen for scoliosis using a scoliometer measurement on a forward-bend test. If the scoliometer reading is greater than 5 degrees, an x-ray is recommended to confirm the diagnosis. Any curvature of the spine measuring greater than 10 degrees on an x-ray is considered scoliosis.

It is important to closely monitor for progression of a curve with repeat low-dose x-rays every 3-6 months during growth. When identified early, there are several conservative treatments that can be utilized to help prevent progression of a curve, or in some cases, even help correct it.

Schroth therapy is a method of physical therapy specific for scoliosis that can be started once a curve reaches ~15 degrees. Teenagers with curves above 25 degrees who still have growth remaining may be eligible for a Rigo scoliosis brace. Schroth and the Rigo brace can be used separately, or together, as a conservative method of treating scoliosis.

If scoliosis reaches 50+ degrees, surgery is typically recommended in order to prevent future suffering. Curves in the 40-50 degree range are in what we call the “gray area,” meaning that we can do the conservative therapies, but surgery is also a potential option, if desired. While it is overwhelming for parents to think of a surgery for their child at such a young age, children/teenagers tend to have better bone quality, less surgical risk, and the fusion surrounding the hardware forms faster. This allows them to quickly return to an active lifestyle with a balanced spine.

Kyphosis is another disorder that is first noted at a young age. This is more common in males than females and is usually monitored with regular x-rays to check for progression. In some cases, the kyphosis can actually improve as the teenager grows. Treatment options for kyphosis include conservative therapies including PT, and/or surgery depending on the severity of the curve and symptoms.

Some young athletes will develop a pars fracture as a result of injury or overuse. This can lead to a condition known as “spondylolisthesis,” or slippage of one vertebra over another. Treatment options for this vary from conservative to injections or surgery as a last resort, depending on the teenager’s symptoms and whether or not the slippage is progressive.

During your visit at the Hey Clinic, we will thoroughly discuss all appropriate treatment options based on your diagnosis, and help you choose the one that is best suited for you and your family. Every patient is precious and every spine is unique. Therefore, we provide care tailored to each individual, putting YOU at the center of the decision-making process to ensure that you are comfortable and confident with the chosen treatment plan.

18 year old Sabrina – underwent scoliosis surgery for a 44 degree T7-T12 curve
Swimmer Photo
“I just wanted to send you all another encouraging update. In case anyone asks if you can return to competitive swimming after major scoliosis surgery, I think you can answer with an emphatic YES. Last night at the ACC Championships, Sabrina and her teammates pulled off a surprising upset and won the 200 Medley Relay! Not only was their time fast enough to set a new school record, but it also qualified them for the NCAA Championships next month. Sabrina led off the relay and swam her fastest 50 yard Backstroke time ever! She swam the first leg/stroke of the relay (backstroke is first in the medley relay) and she won (first backstroker to touch the wall), so she had VT in the lead, and the breaststroker, the butterflyer and then the freestyler maintained that lead for the win. All of this, and it has not even been 10 months since she was fused T5-L1 last May. It’s been a lot of hard work on her part to return to competition, and we can’t thank you enough for you and your team’s skill and kindness throughout the process. Please feel free to share this with your team and anyone else looking for encouragement facing such a major surgery.”

15 year old Brynna – underwent scoliosis surgery for a T6-11 curve measuring 41 degrees and a T11-L4 curve measuring 31 degrees
Soccer Photo

“Here are a few pictures of her playing soccer. Her team won the Girls NC Challenge State Cup today! Thanks for the fantastic success of the operation!”

- Brynna’s Mom

13 year old Haley – underwent scoliosis surgery for a T10-L3 curve measuring 34 degrees and a T5-T10 curve measuring 41 degrees
Ballet Photo
“I can’t believe it’s been 2 and 1/2 years since her surgery. She was initially concerned that the surgery would negatively impact her dancing but in a few short weeks she’ll be heading off to the North Carolina School of the Arts for her final 2 years of high school.

I was very nervous taking her to the audition since their ballet program is very competitive. I even suggested she cover her back so no one would make assumptions. But no one noticed her limited flexibility or the 12-inch scar, they only noticed her passion. Scoliosis and the surgery haven’t stopped her from following her dreams.

We will always be great full for you and your staff and feel blessed by her positive outcome.”

- Haley’s Mom

14 year old Maria – underwent a scoliosis surgery for a T7-T11 curve measuring 47 degrees
Softball Photo
“As you can see, Maria is “back in full swing” so to speak with her sports now. Her confidence improves with each game!”

- Maria’s Mom