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Why It's So Important to Catch Scoliosis Early

Your spine is meant to run in a straight line from your neck down to your tailbone. Your spinal column is made up of 33 vertebrae, and each has two pairs of facet joints on either side of them. These vertebrae and joints stack upon each other to form your spinal column and help you bend and twist. 


But if the spine is out of alignment or looks more like an S than a straight line, this is called scoliosis (curvature of the spine). It impacts the sensitive nerves within the spinal column and has ramifications for other body functions as well, such as walking, bending, reaching, and even breathing. 


Dr. Patrick McNulty is one of the leading experts on scoliosis and draws on more than 30 years of experience when he treats the spinal and orthopedic issues of his patients in Las Vegas and the surrounding communities. He urges anyone who suspects they might have scoliosis to seek treatment immediately, as it’s a progressive condition that can cause serious health problems if left unchecked.

Who gets scoliosis?

Although scoliosis can appear in anyone at any age, it’s most often detected in children — about 100,000 every year — with most diagnoses occurring around the ages of 10-15. Across all age groups, genders, and ethnicities, there are about three million new cases identified annually. 


Causes vary and can stem from an injury, a congenital defect, a medical syndrome, or an unknown source. When the cause isn’t known, it’s called idiopathic scoliosis, and it accounts for the majority of pediatric cases. Whatever the cause, it’s essential to catch it early so treatment can begin to slow or stop the progression that can lead to other health problems.

Early onset scoliosis 

If your child’s scoliosis is diagnosed before they reach age 10, this is considered early onset scoliosis. Signs your child might have scoliosis include:



Some cases of idiopathic scoliosis affect only the spine, but early onset scoliosis may also come with other physical deformities, such as chest wall abnormalities, or neuromuscular diseases like cerebral palsy or spina bifida. 

The importance of early treatment

If your child is younger than two years old and is diagnosed with infantile idiopathic scoliosis with less than a 35 degree curvature, there’s a good chance the problem will resolve on its own as they develop over the years. But if the curvature is more than 35 degrees, it’s likely to progress over time, which is why early treatment is critical.


If you don’t address scoliosis in the early stages, the related symptoms will increase as the curve increases. You’ll notice it in your child’s appearance, and they may walk with a limp or lean to the side. One shoulder may appear to be shrugged while the other looks relaxed. Eventually, these mild symptoms get worse and begin causing pain in the back, legs, and shoulders. 


In addition to the awkward appearance and discomfort, untreated scoliosis can also lead to serious health conditions as the curved spine takes up precious room in your child’s body. This is called thoracic insufficiency syndrome, and it results from the rib cage putting pressure on the heart and lungs, hindering their normal and vital functions. 

Stopping the progression of scoliosis

Whether you or your child is suffering from some form of scoliosis, Dr. McNulty offers the most effective, scientifically advanced treatments available. As a double board-certified orthopedic surgeon with world-class credentials and experience, he’s an expert in the treatment of every type and degree of scoliosis and helps people of all ages manage and overcome their scoliosis symptoms.


From the most conservative approaches, like simple observation and monitoring, to braces, casts, tethering, and surgery, Dr. McNulty skillfully develops a customized treatment plan that addresses your unique set of circumstances. He is also trained and approved for performing tether procedures which allow children to maintain growth and get curve correction without fusion surgery with minimally invasive techniques.

A healthy spine is essential to your overall health and well-being. If you or your child has scoliosis, you can trust Dr. McNulty to treat your spine with care, compassion, and expertise. Call us today or request an appointment online.

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