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What is scoliosis?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

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.

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.

Scoliosis is a condition that occurs when the vertebrae start to bend because the back muscles have become very weak. The spine is normally straight, but in scoliosis the spine curves to the left or to the right. In the beginning, the curve is hardly noticeable, but over time it becomes more obvious. Scoliosis can occur after major injuries like a spinal cord injury, where lack of movement or prolonged body positioning can cause the back muscles to weaken. If scoliosis is a problem, a brace or an operation may be needed.

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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.