What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine. It is a malformation of the bones or "vertebra" that causes one side of the vertebrae to be longer than the other. The vertebrae in a scoliotic spine are wedge shaped, tall on one side and short on the other. On an x-ray, the spine of a person with scoliosis looks more like an “S” or “C” rather than a straight line.

There are three types of scoliosis:

  1. Idiopathic Scoliosis: Idiopathic means the cause is unknown. Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of scoliosis, representing 80-85% of all cases. Onset of idiopathic scoliosis generally happens between the ages of 10-15.
  2. Congenital Scoliosis: Congenital means you were born with the condition. The scoliosis started to develop as the spine formed before birth. Oftentimes, the vertebrae may incorrectly form or separate improperly. Individuals with congenital scoliosis may also have other conditions related to the heart or kidneys.
  3. Neuromuscular Scoliosis: Neuromuscular means the nerves and muscles are affected. Neuromuscular scoliosis is generally caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injuries.

Scoliosis is considered a common condition. It affects 2-3 % of the population, or about 6-9 million people in the United States. Since it is a common condition, it is important to monitor the spine during the average age of onset, 10-15 years old. Early diagnosis is the most important factor in scoliosis treatment. If scoliosis is diagnosed and treated early, there are many more options available for treatment. If scoliosis is diagnosed and treated too late, treatment options may be more limited.

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Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). 5 Facts About Scoliosis Every Parent Should Know. Retrieved from