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From Nemours' KidsHealth
- Preparing Your Child for Surgery
- Frequently Asked Questions About Casts
- Should I Worry About the Way My Son Walks?
- A to Z: Abnormality of Gait (Gait Abnormality)
- Blount Disease
- Broken Bones
- Broken Bones, Sprains, and Strains
- Bones, Muscles, and Joints
- When Your Child Needs a Cast
- Cerebral Palsy
- Preparing Your Child for Anesthesia
- Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip
- Common Childhood Orthopedic Conditions
- Physical Therapy
- A to Z: Clubfoot
- A to Z: Fracture, Clavicle
- A to Z: Fracture, Distal Radius and Ulna
- A to Z: Genu Varum
- A to Z: Fracture, Fibula
- A to Z: Fracture, Radius
- A to Z: Fracture, Elbow
- A to Z: Kyphosis, Congenital
- A to Z: Kyphosis
- A to Z: Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease
- A to Z: Scoliosis
- In-toeing & Out-toeing in Toddlers
- Growth Plate Injuries
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Spina Bifida
- X-Ray Exam: Hand
- X-Ray Exam: Forearm
- X-Ray Exam: Hip
- X-Ray Exam: Humerus (Upper Arm)
- X-Ray Exam: Foot
- X-Ray Exam: Leg Length
- X-Ray Exam: Scoliosis
- X-Ray Exam: Ankle
- X-Ray Exam: Wrist
- X-Ray Exam: Elbow
- X-Ray Exam: Femur (Upper Leg)
- Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE)
- Limited Mobility Special Needs Factsheet
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What Is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis affects the spine. Although the spine is sometimes called "the backbone," it's not just one bone. It's made of lots of small bones (called vertebrae) that are connected by a type of elastic tissue called cartilage. This gives people the flexibility to bend, stretch, balance, and even walk.
Scoliosis is when the vertebrae form a curved line instead of being straight. Sometimes they also rotate (twist), like a corkscrew. This can cause health problems.
Types of Scoliosis
Orthopedic specialists (doctors and other providers who treat bone and muscle problems) group scoliosis into types. Knowing the type of scoliosis helps health care providers treat it.
- Idiopathic scoliosis. This is the most common type of scoliosis. Kids can get it at any age, but most of the time it happens around puberty when a child goes through a growth spurt. Experts don't know exactly why this type of scoliosis develops, but it runs in some families.
- Congenital scoliosis. This type of scoliosis happens when something goes wrong with the way some of the vertebrae developed while a baby was in the womb. The problem might not be noticed until a child goes through a growth spurt, usually around age 2 or between 8 and 13.
- Scoliosis caused by a medical condition. Some kids develop scoliosis because they have a long-term medical problem that affects the muscles or skeletal system. For example, kids with muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, Marfan syndrome, or osteogenesis imperfecta may get scoliosis. Kids who have had tumors or growths on their spine may also develop scoliosis.
How Is Scoliosis Treated?
Small curves usually don't cause problems. But a curve that gets worse can be bad for a person's health. Very large curves can damage the joints and cause arthritis of the spine. Large curves can make the ribs rub against the pelvis, causing pain. Someone whose spine curves a lot might get lung problems.
Reviewed by: Suken A. Shah, MD
Date reviewed: September 05, 2017