Conditions We Treat at the Spine Center

The Spine Center at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh specializes in the treatment of two conditions — scoliosis and kyphosis.

The shape of a normal spine is straight up and down when viewed from the back. When viewed from the side, the spine curves naturally in an s-shape.

Scoliosis and kyphosis affect the spine's normal shape.

The Basics of Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a side-to-side curvature of the spine. Doctors make the diagnosis if the spine curves more than 10 degrees.

There are three types of this condition, which mainly affects adolescents:

  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis — most people with scoliosis have this type. Doctors don't know the cause. It affects about the same number of girls and boys. But, girls are more likely to need treatment for a worsening of their curve.
  • Early onset scoliosis — this is any type of scoliosis before age six, but not present at birth.
  • Congenital scoliosis — this type is present at birth. It usually relates to other diseases or conditions. We don't treat congenital scoliosis at the Spine Center.

Scoliosis symptoms

Scoliosis symptoms are not always present, but may include:

  • Back pain and back tiredness.
  • One shoulder is higher than the other.
  • An appearance of leaning to one side.

The Basics of Kyphosis

Kyphosis is like scoliosis because it's also a curve of the spine. But, in kyphosis, the spine curves from front to back, rather than side to side. Those who suffer from kyphosis often have a “hunched back” or curved shoulders.

There are three main types of kyphosis seen in children and teens:

  • Postural kyphosis — this is the most common type of kyphosis. It affects girls more than boys, and largely relates to posture. It's not as noticeable when standing up straight.
  • Scheuermann's kyphosis — this type most often affects the upper part of the spine. Incorrectly shaped vertebrae (the bones that make up the spine) cause this type of kyphosis. The vertebrae cause the upper part of the spine to curve forward. A person with Scheuermann's kyphosis is not able to stand completely straight.
  • Congenital kyphosis — this condition is present at birth, and relates to another disease process. We do not treat this type of kyphosis at our center.

Kyphosis symptoms

Symptoms of kyphosis include:

  • Pain in the middle of the back.
  • Back stiffness.
  • An appearance of rounded shoulders or a hunched back.
  • Hamstring tightness (the muscles of the upper back part of the legs).

Complications of Scoliosis and Kyphosis

Because both scoliosis and kyphosis are curves of the spine, they can cause other problems with the body's normal function.

Some of these complications include:

  • Back pain.
  • Breathing problems because of pressure on the lungs.
  • Pinched spinal nerves.
  • Wear and tear on the spine.
  • Hip problems because of unbalanced posture.

Contact the Spine Center

To make an appointment, contact the Spine Center at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh at 412-692-5530.