What is scoliosis?

Amir Ahmadian, MD from Medical Center of Trinity describes what scoliosis is and how it is diagnosed in this video.
Luke Macyszyn, MD
Neurosurgery
Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine that measures greater than 10 degrees. Anything less than that doesn't constitute true scoliosis and is considered within the normal range. Most cases of scoliosis are diagnosed in adolescence. Doctors frequently call scoliosis idiopathic because they don't really know what causes it, especially in adolescents. There are other forms of scoliosis, such as infantile scoliosis, which occurs from birth to 2 years of age, and juvenile scoliosis, which occurs from age 3 to 9 years of age. Scoliosis before adolescence tends to progress more rapidly and may be related to a developmental anomaly.
Jaren M. Riley, MD
Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery
Scoliosis is an abnormal curve in the spine. In this video, orthopedic surgeon Jaren Riley, MD, of Rocky Mountain Pediatric Orthopedics, describes how the curvature becomes a problem as a person grows.
Scoliosis is characterized by a sideways or lateral curvature of the spine. People with scoliosis show an abnormal curve in one direction and a compensatory curve in the opposite direction.

Scoliosis can be functional or structural. Functional scoliosis can be caused by unequal leg length, muscle imbalance, or nutritional deficiency. Structural scoliosis is caused by some defect in the bony structure of the spine.

(This answer provided for NATA by the Gustavus Adolphus College Athletic Training Education Program.)
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Scoliosis refers to an abnormal curve in the spine.

When viewed from the back, the normal spine is perfectly straight. But, when viewed from the side, there are normally two curves — one in the neck (the cervical spine) and one in the lower back (the lumbar spine).

Excessive curvature from front to back or any curve from side to side is called scoliosis.

There are several different types of scoliosis:
  • Levoscoliosis — a side-to-side curvature to the right
  • Dextroscoliosis — a side-to-side curvature to the left
  • Kyphoscoliosis — a front to back curvature (with or without side-to-side curvature)
  • Rotational scoliosis — the spine is twisted
Scoliosis can be grouped by its causes, including:
  • Neuromuscular — the cause is a neuromuscular disease, such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy
  • Osteoporotic — the cause is osteoporosis (and usually causes kyphoscoliosis)
  • Congenital — the curvature occurs in the womb due to abnormal spine development
  • Idiopathic — the cause is unknown

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Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Scoliosis means a curve to the spine, making it look like an S. Doctors don't define it as scoliosis unless the curve measures 10 degrees on X-ray, so really minor, subtle curves don’t cause problems. Scoliosis can start when you’re just a kid, but usually it develops in adolescence, affecting 3 percent to 5 percent of all teenage girls, but only 15 percent of those cases are serious enough to require any treatment. Guys, you have it easy: Scoliosis affects only one boy to every seven or eight girls. If it starts before you hit a growth spurt, it can progress faster and be more of a problem if you don’t receive the right interventions
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Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine develops a curved appearance, somewhat like the letters S or C, rather than being straight. Scoliosis primarily begins before the onset of puberty, but worsens and becomes more obvious during the faster growth of  puberty. Spinal curvature typically occurs in healthy children, but the condition can be the result of birth defects or muscular and skeletal diseases.


Picture of Scoliosis

Continue Learning about Scoliosis

Scoliosis

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine -- a disorder that typically occurs just before puberty and is more common in girls. Schools and pediatricians screen for scoliosis; uneven shoulders or hips are often provide clues. If your c...

hild has a curvature, make sure you see your pediatrician regularly to monitor it. Scoliosis is sometimes temporary. Often, the curvature is mild enough that it doesn't require treatment. Doctors monitor scoliosis to determine if it's getting worse -- and for some this may mean wearing a brace or having surgery.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.