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  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:




Scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine. The spine has a C- or S-shaped curve on either side of the spine.


Nuclus factsheet image Woman with ScoliosisNULLjpgA Woman with ScoliosisNULL\\filer01\Intellect\images\si1322.jpgCopyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.17NULL2002-10-012553912558_11573248380Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


In most children, the cause of scoliosis is not known. Genetics may play a role.

In others, the cause may be due to:

  • Problems with the nervous system, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy
  • Inherited problems that run in families
  • Differing leg lengths
  • Injury
  • Infection
  • Tumors

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of scoliosis are:


Most children do not have symptoms. Those who do may have:

  • Changes in posture
  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade or rib cage that sticks out more than the other
  • Uneven hips
  • Back pain
  • Problems breathing (rare)


The diagnosis may be made during a routine physical. Or, it may be made after a school screening program has referred a child to the doctor.

The doctor will ask about the child's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the spine.

Pictures of the spine may be taken. This can be done with X-rays.


Treatment depends on the child's age, stage of growth, and the severity of the curve. Children with a mild curve may not need treatment. They may be monitored for any changes.

The goal of treatment in others is to prevent scoliosis from worsening. Options are:

  • Physical therapy to promote strength, flexibility, and range of motion
  • Bracing or casting to prevent the curve from getting worse

Children with severe curves may need surgery. Spinal fusion may be done to fuse two vertebrae. This can straighten the curve.


There are no known guidelines to prevent scoliosis.





  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
  • Congenital scoliosis and kyphosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
  • Idiopathic scoliosis in children and adolescents. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at:
  • Infantile and juvenile idiopathic scoliosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
  • Scoliosis in children and teens. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.