Scoliosis Information

Definition of Scoliosis


When children have scoliosis, it means their spine abnormally curves to the right or left side of the body.

This spinal curvature can be moderate to severe. While scoliosis is sometimes caused by conditions such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy, the cause of most cases Iof scoliosis  is unknown (idiopathic). With scoliosis, the spine can be curved at any part.. The most common locations affected by scoliosis include the lower part of the back (lumbar scoliosis) and the chest (thoracic scoliosis).

When scoliosis occurs, the spine can curve several different ways:

  • Levoscoliosis:

The spine has a single curve to the left and looks like the letter C.

  • Dextroscoliosis:

The spine has a single curve to the right and looks like a backward letter C, or the spine curves twice, once to the left and once to the right, and looks like the letter S.

Scoliosis Signs & Symptoms

There may be signs and symptoms present that will help identify childhood scoliosis.

Signs consist of things that other people, such as a parent or doctor, observe. Symptoms are things that the child feels and expresses.

For example, the following signs and symptoms may indicate that a child has scoliosis:

  • The child leans to one side.
  • Clothing does not hang correctly and evenly on both sides.
  • Head is not centered directly above the pelvis.
  • One shoulder blade is more prominent and higher than the other when viewed from the back.
  • Ribs on one side are higher than on the other side.
  • One shoulder is higher than the other when viewed from the front or back.
  • One hip sticks out more than the other.
  • One hip is higher than the other.
  • One leg seems longer than the other.
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain (severe cases).

When scoliosis occurs in babies, additional signs and symptoms may indicate:

  • When laying down, the baby’s body may consistently curve to one side.
  • A bulge on one side of the chest.

Idiopathic scoliosis

(unknown cause)

– in about 80% of cases the cause is unknown.

While scoliosis affects millions of children each year, it is often difficult to identify the causes. Idiopathic scoliosis, in which “idiopathic” means the cause of the scoliosis is unknown, occurs in about 80% of childhood cases.

More rare types of scoliosis may be caused by:

  • Birth defects that keep the spine from developing normally when the baby is in the womb (congenital scoliosis).
  • Infections of or injuries to the spine.
  • Neuromuscular conditions, such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy.
  • Hereditary factors or genes
  • Significant differences between the lengths of the legs
  • Other factors such as poor posture, carrying backpacks, and exercise

Children with Scoliosis

There may be signs and symptoms present that will help identify childhood scoliosis.

It is estimated that scoliosis affects about 7 million children in the United States and occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. Idiopathic scoliosis, which means the condition’s cause is unknown, is the most common type of scoliosis affecting children.
For most children, scoliosis treatment is not necessary, as the condition is usually painless and will resolve on its own as the child’s spine continues to grow. However, a child with any degree of scoliosis should continue to be closely observed by a medical professional in case the condition worsens and necessitates treatment.

Scoliosis Risk Factors

While the causes of most cases of scoliosis are unknown, doctors have been able to identify some possible risk factors for the condition. Thankfully, most children will not experience pain from scoliosis and will eventually grow out of it. However, severe scoliosis does occur and it is important to be aware of things that could increase your child’s likelihood of developing this condition:

  • Genetics

Those who have a close relative with scoliosis.

  • Gender

While both boys and girls develop mild scoliosis, girls have a much higher risk of the condition getting worse.

  • Age

The signs and symptoms of scoliosis are noticed most often during a child’s growth spurt just before puberty, although babies can also have scoliosis.