Scoliosis is a sideways curvature in the normally straight vertical line of the spine. When looking at a person with a normal spine from the front or back, the spine appears to be straight. When a person with scoliosis is viewed from the front or back, the spine appears to be curved.
The most common type of scoliosis, idiopathic scoliosis, has no specific identifiable cause. There are many theories, but none have been found to be conclusive. There is, however, strong evidence that idiopathic scoliosis is inherited.
Other types include congenital scoliosis, caused by a bone abnormality present at birth; neuromuscular scoliosis, a result of abnormal muscles or nerves and degenerative scoliosis, often resulting from traumatic bone collapse, previous major back surgery, or osteoporosis.
Approximately 2% to 3% of Americans at age 16 have scoliosis and girls are more likely to be affected than boys. Idiopathic scoliosis is most commonly a condition of adolescence affecting those from 10 through 16. Idiopathic scoliosis may progress during the “growth spurt” years, but usually will not progress during adulthood.
Idiopathic scoliosis rarely causes pain, and in most does not require any treatment. However, once scoliosis is detected it should be closely monitored by a physician in the event that the curve progresses and needs treatment.