COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information

Your health and safety are our top priorities. Learn more about our COVID-19 evaluation and testing and our commitment to providing great care while maintaining the safest environment possible.

Health Library

Scoliosis
Site Map

Scoliosis

Spinal curvature; Infantile scoliosis; Juvenile scoliosis

Scoliosis is an abnormal curving of the spine. Your spine is your backbone. It runs straight down your back. Everyone's spine naturally curves a bit. But people with scoliosis have a spine that curves too much. The spine might look like the letter C or S.

Images

Scoliosis
Skeletal spine
Scoliosis
Spinal curves
Signs of scoliosis
Forward bend test
Scoliosis brace
Spinal fusion

I Would Like to Learn About:

Causes

Most of the time, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. This is called idiopathic scoliosis. It is the most common type. It is grouped by age.

Scoliosis most often affects girls. Some people are more likely to have curving of the spine. Curving generally gets worse during a growth spurt.

Other types of scoliosis are:

Symptoms

Most often, there are no symptoms.

If there are symptoms, they may include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam. You will be asked to bend forward. This makes your spine easier to see. It may be hard to see changes in the early stages of scoliosis.

The exam may show:

X-rays of the spine are done. X-rays are important because the actual curving of the spine may be worse than what your doctor can see during an exam.

Other tests may include:

Treatment

Treatment depends on many things:

Most people with idiopathic scoliosis do not need treatment. But you should still be checked by a doctor about every 6 months.

If you are still growing, your doctor might recommend a back brace. A back brace prevents further curving. There are many different types of braces. What kind you get depends on the size and location of your curve. Your provider will pick the best one for you and show you how to use it. Back braces can be adjusted as you grow.

Back braces work best in people over age 10. Braces do not work for those with congenital or neuromuscular scoliosis.

You may need surgery if the spine curve is severe or getting worse very quickly.

Surgery involves correcting the curve as much as possible:

Scoliosis treatment may also include:

Support Groups

Seek support and more information from organizations that specialize in scoliosis.

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well a person with scoliosis does depends on the type, cause, and severity of the curve. The more severe the curving, the more likely it will get worse after the child stops growing.

People with mild scoliosis do well with braces. They usually do not have long-term problems. Back pain may be more likely when the person gets older.

Outlook for those with neuromuscular or congenital scoliosis varies. They may have another serious disorder, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, so their goals are much different. Often, the goal of surgery is simply to allow a child to be able to sit upright in a wheelchair.

Congenital scoliosis is difficult to treat and usually requires many surgeries.

Possible Complications

Complications of scoliosis can include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you suspect your child may have scoliosis.

Prevention

Routine scoliosis screening is now done in middle schools. Such screening has helped detect early scoliosis in many children. Back and abdominal muscle strengthening can help stabilize the curvature.

Related Information

Lateral
Muscle function loss
Cerebral palsy
Muscular dystrophy
Polio
Fatigue
Respiratory
Anesthesia - what to ask your doctor - child

References

Mistovich RJ, Spiegel DA. The spine. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 699.

Negrini S, Di Felice F, Donzelli S, Zaina F. Scoliosis and kyphosis. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 153.

Sure DR, LaBagnara M, Smith JS, Shaffrey CI. Pediatric spinal deformities and deformity correction. In: Steinmetz MP, Benzel EC, eds. Benzel's Spine Surgery. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 158.

BACK TO TOP

Review Date: 7/7/2019  

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

ADAM Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2020 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

adam.com

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.