Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. Instead of going from top to bottom in a relatively straight line, a spine with scoliosis may appear to have a side-to-side “S-shaped” or “C-shaped” curve. Mild degrees of scoliosis won’t cause you any problems. However, more severe cases of scoliosis can result in pain, weakness, and low self-esteem because of obvious cosmetic deformity. Very severe scoliosis may cause heart and lung problems if those organs are overly cramped in an abnormally shaped chest cavity.
Children may also have kyphosis, which is an abnormal forward curve, usually the upper back.
Most cases of scoliosis begin when a child is around 8-10 years old with gradual progression of the abnormal curvature as they continue to grow. However, it can present at any age, including newborns.
There are several types and classifications of scoliosis.
Structural scoliosis occurs because of a vertebral body defect. Classification of structural scoliosis is based on the cause of the defect:
- Congenital—occurs during fetal development and is usually present at birth
- Syndromic—occurs as a result of an underlying health condition that affects the nerves, muscles, or bones in the back and spine
- Idiopathic—occurs without a specific cause, but is likely due to a combination of multiple genetic factors
They may also be classified by age at onset as congenital, infant, juvenile, or adolescent.
Functional scoliosis is the result of an underlying condition that affects the alignment of the spine due to muscle imbalances, differing leg lengths, or other health conditions that cause the muscles to tense and spasm.
This type of scoliosis can be reversed by treating the underlying condition.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
- Review Date: 05/2017 -
- Update Date: 12/20/2014 -