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Scoliosis of the Spine

Scoliosis is a condition characterized by a sideways curvature of the spine. Scoliosis affects people of all ages. However, it is more common in children who are over 10 years old. Out of every 1,000 children, 3 to 5 of them will develop scoliosis that is considered serious enough to need treatment, which can include bracing or surgery.

What Is Scoliosis of the Spine?

Scoliosis is a musculoskeletal disorder in which there is a sideways curvature of the spine, or backbone. The bones that make up the spine are called vertebrae. Some people who have scoliosis require treatment. People with milder curves may only need to visit their doctor for periodic observation.

What Causes Scoliosis?

In most people (80 to 85 percent of cases), the cause of scoliosis is unknown. This is called idiopathic scoliosis. Doctors classify the other cases into one of two types: nonstructural (functional) scoliosis and structural scoliosis.
Nonstructural scoliosis is when the spine is structurally normal and the curve is temporary. In these cases, the doctor will try to find and correct the cause.
Structural scoliosis is when the spine has a fixed curve. In these cases, the cause could be a disease, injury, infection, or birth defect.

(Click Causes of Scoliosis for more information.)

Who Gets It?

People of all ages can have scoliosis. Out of every 1,000 children, 3 to 5 of them will develop spinal curves that are considered large enough to need scoliosis treatment.
Idiopathic scoliosis falls into three different age ranges, which include:
  • Infantile or early-onset idiopathic scoliosis (children less than 3 years of age)
  • Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis (children between the ages of 3 and 10)
  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (children older than 10 years of age).
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (scoliosis of unknown cause) is the most common type, and girls are more likely than boys to have it. Scoliosis can run in families, which means that a child who has a parent, brother, or sister with idiopathic scoliosis should be checked regularly for the condition by the family physician.
Although idiopathic scoliosis can occur in children younger than 10 years of age, it is rare and it is more common in Europe than in the United States.
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Scoliosis Overview

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