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What is scoliosis?


  • Scoliosis can run in families but most often the cause is unknown.
  • It's important to treat scoliosis since spinal curves can get worse.
  • Most teens with scoliosis can participate in sports and other physical activities.

Scoliosis means that your spine, or "backbone", is curved. Most people with curved spines also have rotated spines.


What causes scoliosis?

Normal Spine vs. Spine with ScoliosisThere are different types of scoliosis and different reasons that might cause your spine to curve. The most common type of scoliosis is called idiopathic scoliosis which means there is no known cause, but it can run in families. There are also other less common types of scoliosis. Sometimes, the spine appears to be curved because of a difference in leg length. Rarely, some babies are born with spinal defects that cause the spine to grow unevenly. This last type of scoliosis is called congenital scoliosis.



Who gets scoliosis?

Anyone can get scoliosis. But the most common type of scoliosis, idiopathic scoliosis, usually occurs after age 10. Girls are more likely to develop idiopathic scoliosis then boys.


Check out the list of some famous people who have scoliosis:

How is scoliosis diagnosed?

Scoliosis screening may be available at your school or at your primary care provider’s office. Girls should be screened when they are 10 and 12, while boys should be screened between 13 and 14. It’s especially important to be checked regularly if you have a parent, sister, or brother with scoliosis.

What kinds of treatment are available?

Scoliosis BraceDepending on the location, degree (severity) of the curves, and how much more growing your body is likely to do, your HCP will recommend observation, bracing, or surgery.

If you're thinking about having surgery, you should ask your HCP the following questions:

What will happen if I ignore my scoliosis?

After you have been diagnosed with scoliosis, you may not think that treatment is that important. However, it is very important to treat scoliosis since spinal curves can become worse and cause physical changes to your spine. In the worst cases, scoliosis can cause changes in your chest and lungs, and later, difficulty breathing. It's also important to treat curves since treatment is much more successful before curves become severe.


How do I cope with having scoliosis?

If you're diagnosed with scoliosis, it doesn't mean you can't live a healthy and active life.Most teens with scoliosis are able to exercise, take part in sports and physical activities, drive. Teens with scoliosis can do pretty much everything that teens without scoliosis can do! It's also important to remember that if you're diagnosed with scoliosis, it's not your fault. Nothing you did caused the scoliosis, and there is nothing you could have done to prevent it. If you have scoliosis, the important thing is for you and your health care provider to choose and follow the best treatment plan for you.


Written and reviewed by the CYWH Staff at Boston Children's Hospital


Updated: 7/17/2013


Related Guides:

Scoliosis and Spinal Deformities

If you or a member of your family has a spinal deformity you probably have questions and concerns. The doctors and nurses in the Children's Hospital Spine Program have prepared this guide to help answer your questions...

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