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


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In most people, the cause 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 this problem are:


Most people 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 your child to the doctor.

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

Images of the spine may be taken. This can be done with x-rays.


Treatment depends on your 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 for 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 together. This can straighten the curve.


There are no known guidelines for preventing this health problem.


Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Scoliosis Research Society


Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society


Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed February 17, 2021.
Congenital scoliosis and kyphosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed February 17, 2021.
Idiopathic scoliosis in children and adolescents. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed February 17, 2021.
Infantile and juvenile idiopathic scoliosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed February 17, 2021.
Negrini S, De Mauroy JC, et al. Actual evidence in the medical approach to adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2014 Feb;50(1):87-92.
Scoliosis in children and teens. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: Accessed February 17, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT
Last Updated: 2/17/2021

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