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Spine and Back Health

Scoliosis

10/27/2010

Question:

Good day I have a 13 year old son that started having back pains when doing certain sports. He was treated for back spasms. It only occurs when doing certain sports. He was now referred to an Orthopedic Surgeon and x-rays was taken. The x-ray report states the following :- "There is a shallow lower dorsal scoliosis convex to the right. The dorsal kyphotic curve and lumbar lordotic curve are still present. The alignment and joint spaces in the pelvis are normal" Could you please explain to me in ordinary language what this means? The Orthopedic Surgeon says it will have to be monitored but nothing to worry about. I don`t really feel at ease and it really bothers me a lot and don`t know what to tell my kid. He is very active in sport. Please help! Thank you

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question. 'Dorsal' is a term sometimes used by radiologists to refer to what is more commonly known as the 'thoracic' spine. This is the part of the spine where the rib cage attaches, between the neck (cervical) and the lower back (lumbar). Scoliosis refers to a bend in the spine to the left or right, but of course normally the spine is not bent that way. 'Convex to the right' refers to which direction the spine bends. While the spine is not normally curved when looking at it from the front, it does have natural curves to it if you look at it from the side. Our neck and lower back both curve in a way that if you looked at a person from the person's left side (the person looking to your left), the neck and lumbar would be curved like a 'C', but the thoracic spine would look like a backwards 'C'. The backwards C is called a 'kyphotic curve' and the forward C is called a 'lordotic curve'.

So, what this all says is that there is a very mild bend in your son's spine near the bottom of the rib cage, but everything else about his spine looks normal. You shouldn't get too worked up about this. As the surgeon said, it would be worth keeping an eye on as your son grows because the spine might bend more as his skeleton grows, or he might actually 'grow out of it'.

I don't think you have to tell your son anything in particular about it other than, "We're going to check on this every so often until you're all grown up." Please keep in mind that I cannot actually give you any medical advice on this website, and you should confirm all this information with the surgeon who has seen your son. Good luck.

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Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University