Skip to content

    Osteoarthritis Health Center

    Select An Article

    Scoliosis

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    What Is Scoliosis?

    Scoliosis is a lateral (toward the side) curvature in the normally straight vertical line of the spine. When viewed from the side, the spine should show a mild roundness in the upper back and shows a degree of swayback (inward curvature) in the lower back. When a person with a normal spine is viewed from the front or back, the spine appears to be straight. When a person with scoliosis is viewed from the front or back, the spine appears to be curved.

    scoliosisspine

    What Causes Scoliosis?

    There are many types and causes of scoliosis, including:

    • Congenital scoliosis. Caused by a bone abnormality present at birth.
    • Neuromuscular scoliosis. A result of abnormal muscles or nerves. Frequently seen in people with spina bifida or cerebral palsy or in those with various conditions that are accompanied by, or result in, paralysis.
    • Degenerative scoliosis. This may result from traumatic (from an injury or illness) bone collapse, previous major back surgery, or osteoporosis (thinning of the bones).
    • Idiopathic scoliosis. The most common type of scoliosis, idiopathic scoliosis, has no specific identifiable cause. There are many theories, but none have been found to be conclusive. There is, however, strong evidence that idiopathic scoliosis is inherited.

    Who Gets Scoliosis?

    Approximately 2% to 3% of Americans at age 16 have scoliosis. Less than 0.1% have spinal curves measuring greater than 40 degrees, which is the point at which surgery becomes a consideration. Overall, girls are more likely to be affected than boys. Idiopathic scoliosis is most commonly a condition of adolescence affecting those ages 10 through 16. Idiopathic scoliosis may progress during the "growth spurt" years, but usually will not progress during adulthood.

    How Is Scoliosis Diagnosed?

    Most scoliosis curves are initially detected on school screening exams, by a child's pediatrician or family doctor, or by a parent. Some clues that a child may have scoliosis include uneven shoulders, a prominent shoulder blade, uneven waist, or leaning to one side. The diagnosis of scoliosis and the determination of the type of scoliosis are then made by a careful bone exam and an X-ray to evaluate the magnitude of the curve.

    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    elderly hands
    Even with arthritis pain.
    woman exercising
    Here are 7 easy tips.
     
    acupuncture needles in woman's back
    How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
    chronic pain
    Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
     
    Keep Joints Healthy
    SLIDESHOW
    Chronic Pain Healthcheck
    HEALTH CHECK
     
    close up of man with gut
    Article
    man knee support
    Article
     
    woman with cold compress
    QUIZ
    Man doing tai chi
    Article
     
    hand gripping green rubber ball
    Slideshow
    person walking with assistance
    Slideshow