Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. It can occur in any region of the spine.

Who Gets Scoliosis?

Scoliosis in Children and Teens

Although anyone can develop scoliosis, it is usually diagnosed in children and adolescents. Children and teens with scoliosis have an abnormal S-shaped or C-shaped curve of the spine. For most children and teens, the cause of scoliosis is idiopathic, meaning it is unknown.

Girls are more likely than boys to have scoliosis. Children are more likely to develop scoliosis if their parent, brother or sister has it.

Adult Scoliosis

Adult scoliosis can present either as a progressive form of an abnormal spinal curve that existed in your childhood (and perhaps went untreated) or as a newly diagnosed condition (occurring after puberty and complete skeletal growth). When it occurs after age 40, it is called adult degenerative scoliosis.

Scoliosis Symptoms

Many children and teens with scoliosis do not experience any pain or other symptoms. In many cases, the child/teen or a family member notices changes in their posture. Other possible symptoms of scoliosis include:

  • A visible curve in your back
  • Uneven waist, hips or shoulders
  • A visible bump on the back

Diagnosis and Treatment

Particularly in the case of children and teens (as they often don't experience any symptoms), doctors usually discover scoliosis during a routine physical exam. A diagnosis is also made through:

  • A forward bend test (you bend forward with your feet together and knees straight while dangling your arms as the doctor checks for imbalances in your rib cage or other abnormalities along your back that could be a sign of scoliosis)
  • X-rays
  • A review of your medical and family histories

Your doctor may recommend treatment depending on the location of the curve, the severity of the condition, your symptoms and, if you are a child or teen, whether you are still growing. (Children with mild curves typically don't require treatment but may need regular checkups.) If treatment is needed, options may include:

  • Bracing
  • Physical therapy
  • Spinal fusion surgery to stop the progression of the curve and, in some instances, correct the curvature

Contact Us

To learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment, call the spine team at UM St. Joseph Medical Center at 410-337-4882. Meet our expert spine team.