Scoliosis Q & A
What Is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is an unnatural curve in the spine that makes a normally straight vertical line of the spine curve laterally. When viewed from the side, the spine should show a mild roundness in the upper back and show a degree of curve that bows inward 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.
What causes scoliosis?
Up to three percent of Americans at age 16 can have scoliosis. There are many types and causes of scoliosis, including:
Congenital scoliosis – Caused by a bone abnormality present at birth.
Neuromuscular scoliosis – Results from 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 can result from injury or illness, bone collapse, previous major back surgery, or osteoporosis.
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.
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. Children who have mild scoliosis are monitored closely, usually with X-rays, to see if the curve is getting worse. In many cases, no treatment is necessary.