What’s Scoliosis?


The spine naturally curves in an S shape when viewed from the side of your body and it looks straight when viewed from behind. Scoliosis causes the spine to form a lateral (side-to-side) curvature that looks like an S or a C shape when viewed from behind. Sometimes this curvature causes hips, shoulders and other body parts to appear off balance.

scoliosis main 1 - What's Scoliosis?

Causes and Types

Scoliosis is classified by the cause and the age of the person diagnosed.  According to the Scoliosis Research Society [LINK?], over 80 percent of scoliosis cases are idiopathic, meaning that the cause is unknown, and it is most commonly diagnosed in adolescent girls.  This type of scoliosis can run in families, and researchers are still investigating this genetic link.  Nothing you do causes scoliosis. It is not associated with your posture, the weight of your backpack, the sports you play, or any other activity you do.  Ideopathic scoliosis is further classified by age:

scoliosis age class - What's Scoliosis?

Infantile idiopathic scoliosis: ages 0 to 3.  The Scoliosis Research Society reports that in more than 90% of cases, the curve straightens without treatment as the child grows.    

Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis: ages 4 to 10.  Boys are affected more frequently at the younger end of this age group, and girls more frequently at the older end.  According the Scoliosis Research Society, this age group accounts for 10% to 15% of idiopathic scoliosis cases.   

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: ages 10 to 18.  This is the most common type of scoliosis, affecting almost 4% of children in this age group.  Research has shown a genetic connection with this type of scoliosis, and girls in this age group are much more likely than boys to develop a curve that requires treatment.

Adult idiopathic scoliosis: age 18 and older.  Adult idiopathic scoliosis is a progression of a curve that began in the teenage years.  Adults can also develop degenerative scoliosis, which is caused by disc degeneration and other spinal problems that develop later in life. 

Congenital scoliosis develops during a fetus’s first six weeks, when the vertebrae do not form or separate properly.  Since the spine forms at the same time as the heart and kidneys, sometimes there are problems with these organs as well.

Neuromuscular and syndromic scoliosis are associated with other conditions, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal muscle atrophy, spina bifida, neurofibromatosis, Angelman syndrome, Arnold-Chiari malformation/syrinx, various connective tissue disorders, or spinal cord trauma.