Scoliosis is a sideways curving and turning of the bones of a human spine.
In most cases, scoliosis develops in otherwise healthy individuals. When health professionals can’t find a cause for it, it’s called idiopathic scoliosis.
Idiopathic scoliosis can start at any age during childhood and adolescence, but it most commonly starts during a growth spurt, usually in adolescence.
Idiopathic scoliosis is named according to the age at which it starts:
- Early onset idiopathic scoliosis (EOS) happens at 0-10 years.
- Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) happens at 10-18 years.
Idiopathic scoliosis can develop quickly during a child’s growth. The more quickly a child grows, the more likely scoliosis is to develop quickly.
Idiopathic scoliosis is also described as mild, moderate or severe, depending on how curved the child’s spine is.
Scoliosis affects approximately 2-3% of children and teenagers. It’s more common in girls than boys, particularly in girls aged 10-13 years.
Causes of scoliosis
Most cases of scoliosis are idiopathic, which means there’s no obvious reason why a child has it.
There’s lots of research being done on the causes of idiopathic scoliosis. Scoliosis tends to run in families, so genetics might play a part in causing it.
Other causes of scoliosis
In a few cases, we do know the cause of scoliosis.
Physiological scoliosis – also known as a ‘list’ – is caused by a difference in the length of a child’s legs. The child stands with a bend in her spine as a result.
Functional scoliosis happens when some of the muscles around the child’s spine are working harder than others, perhaps as a result of something painful like a stress fracture.
Signs and symptoms of scoliosis
You might see the following in a person with scoliosis:
- unevenness of the shoulders and waistline
- the pelvis shifted to one side
- the head slightly tilted
- unevenness in the shape of the rib cage at the back, when the person bends forward.
Often a patient with scoliosis doesn’t experience any symptoms. But common symptoms are a mild ache in the low or middle back area.
When Children grow very quickly, the curve can also get worse very quickly. In adults, severe curves usually get worse slowly. As the curve gets bigger, it increases the risk of health problems such as back pain and shortness of breath.
Teenagers with scoliosis can have lower self-esteem and more chance of depression.