Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. Instead of going from top to bottom in a relatively straight line, a spine with scoliosis may appear to have a side-to-side “S-shaped” or “C-shaped” curve. Mild degrees of scoliosis won’t cause you any problems. However, more severe cases of scoliosis can result in pain, weakness, and low self-esteem because of obvious cosmetic deformity. Very severe scoliosis may cause heart and lung problems if those organs are overly cramped in an abnormally shaped chest cavity.
Most cases of scoliosis begin when a child is around 8 to10 years old with gradual progression of the abnormal curvature as they continue to grow.
There are several types and classifications of scoliosis.
Structural scoliosis occurs because of a vertebral body defect. Classification of structural scoliosis is based on the cause of the defect:
They may also be classified by age at onset as infant, juvenile, or adolescent.
Functional scoliosis is the result of an underlying condition that affects the alignment of the spine due to muscle imbalances, differing leg lengths, or other health conditions that cause the muscles to tense and spasm.
This type of scoliosis can be reversed by treating the underlying condition.
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http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00353. Updated March 2010. Accessed November 21, 2013.
Questions and answers about scoliosis in children and adolescents. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Scoliosis/default.asp. Updated July 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.
Scoliosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated October 29, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.
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What is scoliosis? Fast Facts: An Easy-to-Read Series of Publications for the Public. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Scoliosis/scoliosis_ff.asp. Updated March 2009. Accessed November 21, 2013.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
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