Everything You Need To Know About Scoliosis

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While many of us knew about this spinal condition, probably since a friend or a family member have it, not all of us are knowledgeable about what Scoliosis really is: it’s Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. This article will give you everything you need to know about Scoliosis.

Photo from: chiropractorclinicroseville.com

Scoliosis causes the spine to curve sideways. It is characterized by the abnormal lateral curvature of the spine caused by the rotation or curving of the spine that results in curving side to side—as most scoliosis cases are. It is often diagnosed in adolescents, ages 10-16 when a child is growing fast. The curves may happen in any part of the spine, however, this usually affects the upper spine and the lower backbone. This condition is more common in females than in males, and the likelihood to have this condition may increase if the person has a family history. Scoliosis is rare in infants, yet, children before 3 years of age can have infantile scoliosis—classically defined as the type of scoliosis that is diagnosed in babies between birth and 3 years of age. This condition can occur in people who have cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and muscular dystrophy, but in most cases, the causes of this condition are still unknown which doctors call idiopathic scoliosis. Experts have said that this might be just some birth abnormality. However, they have enumerated some of the possible causes of scoliosis:

  1. Neuromuscular condition– this condition affects the nerves and the muscles. It includes muscular dystrophy, poliomyelitis, and cerebral palsy.
  2. Congenital scoliosis– this occurs when the fetus’ bones in the spines curve and or grow abnormally.
  3. Genes– one is more likely to have scoliosis if they have a family history of the condition
  4. Leg length– if one’s leg is shorter or longer than the other, they may likely have

A person with this condition has a C or S-shaped curve in the spine. To confirm the diagnosis by the doctor, the Cobb angle—the measurement of the curvature—must be at least 10 degrees. 

The treatment of this condition depends on what type of curve the doctor will classify it with each patient. Each condition has different appropriate treatments. There are two types of curvature—structural and non-structural curvature. A structural curve is permanent which may be caused by back injuries and such, while a non-structural curve, on the other hand, is temporary which means that the spinal position is structurally normal.


Doctors usually consider 4 factors in deciding which type of treatment the patient needs.

  1. Sex– females are more likely to have scoliosis than males and their condition is also more likely to get worse.
  2. The severity of the curve– this is important to know because the progress of the condition is affected by the type of curve the patient has. C curves are common in people with neuromuscular scoliosis while S curves in people with idiopathic scoliosis.
  3. Curve position– curves in the center of the spine are more likely to get worse than those in the upper and lower parts.
  4. Bone maturity– if the bone of the person has already stopped growing, the risk of worsening the condition is low. Otherwise, the person needs back braces to correct it if the bones are still growing. 

In most cases, scoliosis in childhood and adolescence is mild and does not need treatment. Patients usually just have check-ups with their doctors within a 3, 6, or 12 months interval to see if their condition is changing. This mild scoliosis only has a degree of curve of 10 to 25 degrees. Otherwise, the doctor may recommend bracing for people with a 25 to 40 degrees curve. If the degree of curve is greater than this, the doctor may recommend surgery if the skeleton is still immature.

Casting and Bracing

Photo from: Google (The Infantile Scoliosis Chronicles: Pictures of Cast # 3)

For infants having infantile scoliosis, instead of using back braces, doctors usually use plaster casts to help the baby’s spine grow normally into the normal position. The cast is attached to the body of the infant which they should be wearing every day; and because babies at this age grow fast, the doctor changes it regularly depending on their size.  

Photo from: hudsonvalleyscoliosis.com

On the other hand, for patients with moderate scoliosis—a 25-40 degrees curve in the spine, bones are still growing, and doctors may recommend braces. Braces do not cure or reverse scoliosis. This will only prevent future curvature that might happen while the bones are still growing. If the growth stops, patients can no longer wear braces. Like the casting for children, braces are also recommended to be worn every day, even at night to maximize their effect. There are two types of braces:

  1. A thoracolumbosacral orthosis or TLSO– this kind of brace usually is seamless or is not visible under clothing. This brace is designed to fit perfectly on the body shape and curves of the person.
  2. Milwaukee brace– doctors use this brace if TLSO is not effective or suitable for the patient. This type of brace has a neck ring with rests at the back of the chin and head. 

Signs and Symptoms

Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of scoliosis that affects adolescence. People with this condition usually experience the following symptoms:

  1. The head appears off center
  2. The other leg appears shorter or longer than the other.
  3. The shoulder blade may appear higher than the other
  4. The patient may lean on the other side
  5. The other side of the hips is more prominent than the other
  6. The clothes do not hang evenly

 For infants, the following are the symptoms:

  1. A significantly obvious bulge on the side chest
  2. Problems with the heart and lungs, and difficulty breathing for babies in worst cases.
  3. Lying with the body curved on one side

Scoliosis may cause back pain, however, this is only common in adults. Infants with scoliosis, if not treated immediately, may cause problems like impaired heart and lung function to the patients. They will be more at risk of problems growing up.


Scoliosis refers to the abnormal position and curve of the spine. Usually, it affects adolescents ages 10-16 and most scoliosis is idiopathic, which means the cause of this is unknown. Treatments for this condition depend on how severe the scoliosis is as what is diagnosed by the doctors. Doctors may usually recommend casting for babies, bracing to help prevent future curves, and surgeries if the condition is severe and if the bone is still immature. 

If a person is experiencing the symptoms of scoliosis, they should seek the help of experts immediately for treatment. If you feel something is wrong, do not ignore it. Always listen to your body. 


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