What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition of the spine that generally appears during puberty, right before a growth spurt. However, it can be caused by other condition s as well, including muscular dystrophy, and cerebral palsy.  Scoliosis is a condition where a portion of the spine grows at a curve, which is extremely evident when looking at an x-ray.

The majority of patients with scoliosis only have a mild version. However, it is not uncommon for children who have a spine deformity, or scoliosis at a very young age, to have their condition become more severe as they grow.

Scoliosis that is considered severe is disabling. The severity of the person’s disability depends on the direction the spine curves. A severe curve in the spin can cause uncomfortable pressure in the chest, which makes it difficult for the lungs to fully expand.

A child who is found to have scoliosis will be monitored very closely. Their doctor will take x-rays regularly to make sure that the curvature of their spine does not become worse. If the doctor does see regular change, or it can safely be anticipated that the condition will become worse, surgery may be need to straighten the spine.

What are the Symptoms of Scoliosis?

The signs and symptoms of scoliosis may be noticeable, or they may be hidden. The extent of the spine’s curvature will determine how noticeable the condition is.

The signs and symptoms of scoliosis are:

  • Uneven shoulders while standing straight.
  • One shoulder blade is more prominent than the other when standing up straight.
  • When standing straight, the waist is uneven.
  • When standing straight, one hip appears higher than the other.

If the original curvature in the spine becomes worse over time, it will be very noticeable to the patient. The spine will not only bend further, but it can also rotate to one side or the other, or twist. The reason the increase in curvature become more obvious, but it also causes the ribs to stick out further on one side.

Scoliosis Causes

Unfortunately, doctors haven’t figured out the causes of scoliosis. Because the disorder runs in families, it’s commonly believed to be hereditary. Rarer forms can be caused by neuromuscular conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, spinal birth defects that impact how bones develop, and injuries to the spinal column.

Risk factors for the most common kind of scoliosis include age, sex, and family history. Scoliosis typically presents just prior to puberty, girls have a much higher risk of spinal curvature that worsens or requires treatment, and scoliosis can run in families. However, most children with scoliosis don’t share a family history of this debilitating disease.

How is Scoliosis Treated?

The majority of children who have scoliosis have slightly curved, or mild curves in their back. Most of them will never require treatment, but will require a checkup more regularly than other children. Mild scoliosis may not require treatment unless it gets worse, but there are other forms that do require treatment.

For the most part, physicians prefer to keep an eye on the condition, unless it becomes inconvenient, painful, or dangerous for the patient.

Moderate Scoliosis

A child with moderate scoliosis that is still growing, may receive a recommendation to wear braces. While the brace will not cure scoliosis, it can prevent further curvature from developing.

Surgery is only an option if the curvature begins to interfere in the life of the person suffering from it.

Scoliosis Prevention

Scoliosis is mainly idiopathic, or of unknown cause, making it hard to prevent. Idiopathic scoliosis can be caused by a combination of inherited and environmental factors. It is possible to identify children at risk, but not to prevent it. The good news is that you can stop scoliosis from worsening by undergoing brain-muscle retraining and maintaining proper nutrition.

Congenital scoliosis is a birth defect occurring in early pregnancy which isn’t usually noticeable at birth. However, the condition worsens for 75 percent of impacted children. It can present in toddlers but often goes undetected until adolescence. This type is more difficult to treat than idiopathic scoliosis due to misshapen vertebrae. There is no preventive measure for mothers for this defect.

De Novo scoliosis, also called degenerative scoliosis, can be prevented by preventing trauma and maintaining good posture. In most cases, you can’t prevent trauma, but you can practice good posture. If you spend years carrying heavy bags on one side or conduct repetitive lopsided actions, this can cause degenerative scoliosis. With people living longer than ever, doctors are getting more of these cases. Take effective measures by alternating shoulders if you carry a heavy bag every day.


Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
November 02, 2017