Scoliosis is a condition where the spine or back bone is curved sideways instead of appearing in a straight line. It can occur in all ages, but commonly occurs in children before puberty, during their growth spurt.

What are the causes of scoliosis?

Most often the cause of scoliosis is unknown and is termed as idiopathic scoliosis. Scoliosis can be categorized into two groups:

Non-structural scoliosis: This type of scoliosis presents as a structurally normal spine with a temporary or changing curve. Causes include:

  • Differences in leg lengths
  • Muscle spasms
  • Inflammatory conditions such as appendicitis

Structural scoliosis: This type of scoliosis presents with a fixed curve in the spine. Causes include:

  • Birth defects
  • Injury to the spine
  • Infections
  • Neuromuscular diseases such as cerebral palsy, polio and muscular dystrophy
  • Tumors
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Rheumatic diseases


The symptoms of scoliosis depend on the cause, severity and age of the patient. Some of the common symptoms include spinal curvature, abnormal gait, uneven shoulders and hip, difference in leg lengths, more prominent rib or shoulder blade when the patient bends in the front, and back pain. In severe cases it may also cause breathlessness.

How is scoliosis diagnosed

Scoliosis is diagnosed by reviewing your child's medical and family history, and performing a thorough physical examination. X-rays further aid in confirming the diagnosis.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment of scoliosis is based on the cause, age of the patient, and how much your child has to grow. Treatment options include:

  • Observation: Your child's physician may follow-up every few months to monitor the curve if the scoliosis is mild.
  • Bracing: Your child's physician may recommend wearing a brace to prevent the curve from worsening if your child is still growing.
  • Surgery: If your child is still growing, the curve is over 40° or is worsening, surgery may be recommended. The most common surgical procedure for scoliosis is correction, stabilization and fusion of the curve.

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