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Scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine. This is a common condition that can leave the spine looking like an “S” or a “C,” rather than a straight line down the back. Some curves in the spine are normal and help with balance and the ability to stand upright—it is a sideways curvature of the spine that indicates scoliosis.

Scoliosis usually isn’t life-threatening and children who have it can live normal and active lives. There is no known way to prevent scoliosis, however, treatment can help the condition from getting worse. Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare offers several options for scoliosis treatment.

Types of Scoliosis

Scoliosis in children, infants, teens and adults includes a curvature of the spine, but the amount or degree of the curve can vary greatly. There are several types, each ranging from mild scoliosis to severe scoliosis. 

  • Idiopathic scoliosis: For idiopathic scoliosis, the exact reason the spine curves remains unknown, that's what "idiopathic" means - that means we don’t know why it occurs. We know there is some basis in genetics. A recent theory involves the front of the spine growing faster than the back of the spine, causing a rotating and twisting of the spine.  

    You did not do anything to cause your scoliosis. It is not from wearing a heavy backpack; it is not from a “wrong” sleep position; it is not from having poor posture. There was nothing you could have done to prevent getting scoliosis.  

    Scoliosis is more common than you might think, too. Approximately 3% of people have scoliosis.  

  • Neuromuscular scoliosis: Children who have conditions such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or other neuromuscular conditions can have abnormal muscles or nerves, and when the muscles and nerves that support the spine are imbalanced or weak, it can lead to neuromuscular scoliosis.
  • Congenital scoliosis: This relatively rare form of scoliosis starts as the spine forms before a child is born—sometimes spinal bones aren’t fully formed, or sometimes vertebrae are fused together. Even though this type of scoliosis is present at birth, it might go undetected until your child is a teen.

Learn more about the types and causes of scoliosis.

The Symptoms of Scoliosis

Most people with scoliosis do not report pain; those that do report pain, typically report only mild pain. Severe or constant pain is not a typical symptom of scoliosis.  

You or your parent may have noticed one or more of the following changes in your appearance: 
Scoliois Graphic

  • Chest shifted to one side 
  • One shoulder blade more noticeable than other
  • Asymmetry (unevenness) of the waist
  • Clothes fit unevenly
  • One shoulder is higher than other
  • One hip is higher than other
  • Asymmetry of front torso

You may not have noticed any changes in your appearance, but your healthcare provider did when you had your check-up. The diagnosis of scoliosis is made based upon a physical exam and x-ray of the spine.  

Your provider may have asked you to do a forward bend exam, which can show spine abnormalities. This is called the Adam’s Forward Bend Test. 

Learn more about some of the symptoms that can indicate scoliosis.