SCOLIOSIS - Watsons Health


Scoliosis is the sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most commonly during growth spurt.

When a person with a normal spine, is viewed from the front or back, the spine appears to be straight.  When a person with scoliosis is viewed from the same view, the spine appears to be curved.

Scoliosis may be caused by certain medical conditions like, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and Marfan syndrome.  It may also be congenital, caused by a problem with the development of the spine in the womb.

In adults, age related changes in the discs and joints of the spine and a reduction in bone density may cause scoliosis. Adults can also experience worsening over time of previously undiagnosed or untreated scoliosis.

Risk factors for the most common type of scoliosis, include:

  • Signs and symptoms typically begin during the growth spurt that occurs just prior to puberty.
  • Although both boys and girls may develop scoliosis at the same rate, girls are more likely to develop more curvature in the spine, and may require treatment more often.
  • Family history.

The most commonly known type of scoliosis is idiopathic scoliosis. Other types of scoliosis include:

  • Congenital scoliosis, which develops in utero and is present in infancy. A rare condition, affecting one in 10,000, there is no known cause, but in most cases the spinal curve must be corrected surgically.
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis, which sometimes develops in individuals who cannot walk due to a neuromuscular condition such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy. This may also be called myopathic scoliosis.
  • Degenerative scoliosis (adult scoliosis), which is a common condition that occurs later in life as the joints in the spine degenerate.
  • Idiopathic scolciosis, which is the most common type of scoliosis, and has no specific identifiable cause.

Signs and symptoms of scoliosis may include:

  • a visibly curved spine
  • one shoulder being higher than the other
  • one shoulder or hip being more prominent than the other
  • clothes not hanging properly
  • a prominent ribcage
  • a difference in leg lengths
  • back pain is common in adults with scoliosis

Diagnosing scoliosis 

Scoliosis can usually be diagnosed after a physical examination of the spine, ribs, hips and shoulders. You may be asked to bend forward to see if any areas are particularly prominent.


The orthopaedic specialist will take an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis of scoliosis.  This will help determine the shape, direction, location and angle of the curve. The medical name for the angle the spine curves is known as the Cobb angle.



Most patients with scoliosis have mild curves and probably would not need treatment.  Those with mild scoliosis may need checkups every 4 to 6 months to see if there are changes in spine.

Treatment for scoliosis include:

  • The purpose of bracing is to halt the progression of the curve.  This is the usual bracing for spinal curve between 25 and 40 degrees, and if their bones are still maturing, or they have at least 2 years of bone growth remaining.
  • Those who have 40 to 50 degrees scoliosis are considered for surgery. The goal is to make sure the curve does not worsen.  During the procedure, metallic implants are placed on the spine to hold it in the correct position.

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