Skip to main content
Treatment in children

If your child has scoliosis, the recommended treatment will depend on their age, how severe the curve is, and whether it's getting worse.

Many children won't need treatment, and only a small number end up having surgery.

There is a separate page about treatments for scoliosis in adults.

Monitoring

Treatment is not always necessary for very young children because their spine may straighten as they grow.

But if the curve doesn't correct itself, there's a small risk it could reduce the space for the organs to grow, so careful monitoring by a specialist is important.

Your specialist may recommend regular examinations and X-rays to monitor the curve and decide if treatment is needed.

Regular monitoring may also be recommended for older children with mild scoliosis, as treatment might not be needed if it's not getting worse over time.

Wearing a cast

In babies and toddlers, treatment to try to help straighten the spine as it grows may be recommended.

This may involve wearing a plaster cast fitted around their back.

The cast is worn constantly and can't be removed, but it's changed every few months as your child grows.

Parents often find it easier for their child to wear a cast while they're still very young, rather than getting them to wear a removable back brace every day.

You may decide to switch to a back brace when your child is a bit older.

Back braces

If the curve of your child's spine is getting worse, your specialist may recommend they wear a back brace while they're growing.

This won't correct the curve, but might help stop it getting worse. There are still some uncertainties about how well braces work, though, so they're not recommended by all scoliosis specialists.

The brace:

Your child will usually have to wear the brace for as long as they're growing. For most children, this means they can stop wearing it when they're around 16 or 17.

Scoliosis Association UK has more information about bracing.

Surgery

Surgery may be recommended if your child's scoliosis continues to get worse despite trying other treatments, or if they have severe scoliosis and they've stopped growing.

The type of surgery offered will depend on your child's age.

Surgery in children

Younger children – generally those under 10 – can have an operation to insert special rods alongside the spine. This can help stop the curve getting worse as the spine grows.

After the operation, your child will need to return to their specialist every few months to have the rods lengthened to keep up with their growth.

Depending on the type of rods used, this will be done either:

Even if they have surgery, your child may need to wear a brace to protect their back.

When they stop growing, the rods can be removed and a final operation to straighten their spine may be carried out.

Surgery in teenagers and young adults

Teenagers and young adults who've stopped growing can have an operation called a spinal fusion to correct the curve.

This is a major operation where the spine is straightened using metal rods, screws, hooks or wires, along with bits of bone taken from elsewhere in your body, often the hip.

These are usually left in place permanently.

Most people:

Sometimes they'll need to wear a back brace after surgery to protect the back while it heals.

Risks of surgery

Like any operation, spinal surgery carries a risk of complications. It will only be recommended if your surgeon feels the benefits outweigh the risks.

Some of the main risks include:

Make sure you discuss the potential complications with your surgeon.

Scoliosis Association UK has more about surgery in young people, preparing your child for surgery and advice before and after surgery.

Exercise and other therapies

Regular exercise is important for children with scoliosis. It can help improve muscle strength and may help reduce any back pain.

Children with scoliosis can usually do most types of exercise safely. They only need to avoid certain activities if advised to do so by a specialist.

It's not yet clear whether specific back exercises or physiotherapy can help improve scoliosis – they're not recommended by all specialists.

There's currently little reliable evidence to suggest that other therapies, such as osteopathy and chiropractic, can help correct a curved spine or stop it getting worse.