What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a very common spinal disorder. Many people can have it without knowing they do. For this reason, learning the ins and outs of Scoliosis can help those who suffer receive the treatment they need.

Scoliosis is defined as an abnormal curvature of the spine. Normally, the spine is straight in the vertical plane. In someone with Scoliosis, on the other hand, the spine curves to the side in different areas (similar to the way a snake curls as it slithers).

Scoliosis is usually visible by physical exam, on x-ray, or through MRI. There are several subtypes of Scoliosis including Congenital Scoliosis (which people are born with), Neuromuscular Scoliosis (which develops because of an underlying condition such as spina bifida or muscular dystrophy), Degenerative Scoliosis (which develops due to injury or osteoporosis), and Idiopathic Scoliosis (which has no known cause). Idiopathic Scoliosis is by far the most common.

English: Result after scoliosis surgery. Deuts...
English: Result after scoliosis surgery. Deutsch: Ergebnis nach Skoliose-Operation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How Common Is Scoliosis?

According to the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS), Scoliosis is the most common of all spinal deformities. It affects around 2-3 percent of the population, which equates to approximately 7 million Americans.

Who Gets Scoliosis?

Scoliosis isn’t picky: it can occur in anyone. Infants, teenagers, adults, and the elderly can all be affected. However, the most common age of onset is the preteen and early teenage years, between the ages of 10 and 15.

Scoliosis is also found in both genders. While it impacts both women and men equally, women are nearly 8 times more likely to have a form that progresses in seriousness. For this reason, Scoliosis is sometimes thought of as a female affliction.

What Are the Risk Factors for Scoliosis?

There are a limited number of risk factors for Scoliosis because, according to the SRS, the vast majority of cases (up to 85 percent) have no known cause. However, like so many things, Scoliosis does appear to have a genetic component. For this reason, children who have a parent or sibling with Scoliosis should regularly be checked for the condition. Those with underlying health conditions that alter the body’s skeletal system are also at risk for Scoliosis.

What Are the Symptoms of Scoliosis?

Often, Scoliosis presents no symptoms at all. Yet, those in the early stages may notice that their shoulders and hips seem uneven or off balance. As the disease progresses, people may begin experiencing extreme tiredness and lower back pain. Advanced Scoliosis can be debilitating.

What Can Be Done for Scoliosis?

Early diagnosis and treatment are two keys to keeping Scoliosis from becoming a disorder that affects one’s quality of life. The ideal treatment depends on the condition’s severity: some people may require no treatment while others may require surgical intervention.

Overall, the most common treatment options include: watchful waiting, bracing (particularly if the person affected is in their teen years, with bones that are still maturing), and spinal fusion. When it comes to the latter, two bones of the spine are fused together and a metal rod is inserted to help the spine remain straight. Surgery for Scoliosis is quite invasive and the recovery time can be slow and require lifestyle changes. For this reason, surgical procedures are typically reserved for those who have extreme curvature, severe symptoms, or for those who have not responded well to other forms of treatment.


This piece was composed by Timothy Bond, a freelance writer focusing on health and medical science; those concerned about their spinal health should take the time view the resources from Gulf Coast Spine Care.