Scoliosis Myths and Facts – Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

What You Didn’t Know About Scoliosis

By Chantelle Kadala

Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves or twists into a “C” or “S” shape and it affects 2% to 3% of the United States population. Myths and fears abound but June is National Scoliosis Awareness Month and a good time to learn some things you should know about scoliosis.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Scoliosis

Scoliosis is not caused by carrying heavy items, playing sports or having bad posture. The cause for scoliosis is unknown in most cases, but doctors look for possible causes such as injury or infection to classify curves as nonstructural or structural.

There are two classifications for scoliosis curves: Nonstructural and Structural. Nonstructural classifications apply to structurally normal spines that appear curved but are temporarily distorted due to an underlying condition such as muscle spasm and differences in leg lengths. Nonstructural scoliosis is treated by correcting the underlying problem. Structural scoliosis is a fixed curve, sometimes part of another condition or disease such as Marfan syndrome, neuro-muscular diseases, birth defects, connective tissue disorders or injury.

Scoliosis affects females much more than it affects males. While people of all ages can have scoliosis the most common type is adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (scoliosis of unknown cause) typically appearing between 10-15 years old among both genders but females are eight times more likely to progress to a curve severe enough to require treatment.

Early detection allows for observation, bracing and treatments that may help avoid the need for surgery. Children who have a parent, brother, or sister with idiopathic scoliosis should be checked regularly for scoliosis by the family doctor.

There is no cure for scoliosis but there are treatments. Doctors determine a treatment plan of observation, bracing, and/or surgery based on the age of the patient, the degree of the curve and the type of scoliosis the patient has. Observation every few months after diagnosis for mild curves helps to determine if wearing a brace can stop a curve from getting worse in patients who are still growing or if surgery is needed to correct a curve or stop it from worsening when the patient is still growing, has a severe curve or a curve that is getting worse.

With 85% of scoliosis cases having unknown causes, a patient’s quality of life can be greatly affected by pain, limited activity, recurring observation and x-rays, and lowered self-esteem but with in-depth education and support their needs can be met while living life as close to normal as possible. You can find more information on scoliosis by visiting the National Scoliosis Foundation website.


National Scoliosis Foundation

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases