What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine. It is most typically diagnosed in childhood or early adolescence. In the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions on the so-called “sagittal” plane, the spine’s natural curves occur. These natural curves situate the head above the pelvis and function as shock absorbers to disperse mechanical stress during movement. Scoliosis is frequently characterized as spinal curvature in the “coronal” (frontal) plane. 

The coronal plane divides the body into anterior (the front) and posterior (the rear) halves by running vertically from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Using the sagittal plane, one may divide one’s body into right and left halves. Axis is at right angles to coronal and sagittal planes and is thus perpendicular to the ground.

Rate of Occurrence

In the United States, between 2 and 3 percent of the population suffers from scoliosis, which translates to around 6 to 9 million people. It’s possible that scoliosis develops in infancy or childhood. Scoliosis, on the other hand, is most often diagnosed between the ages of 10 and 15, with both sexes affected equally. Curve progression that requires treatment is eight times more common in women than in men. About 30,000 children are equipped with braces each year, and about 38,000 people get spinal fusion surgery each year for scoliosis in private medical facilities.


Scoliosis may be characterized by etiology: idiopathic, hereditary, or neuromuscular. Scoliosis that is caused by idiopathic factors accounts for around 80% of all occurrences of the condition. It is the most common kind of scoliosis among adolescents and is often diagnosed around the time of puberty.

It is possible to acquire congenital scoliosis in any location of one’s spine due to a vertebral defect. Curvature and other abnormalities of the spine are caused by vertebral anomalies because one segment of the spinal column grows at a slower rate than the rest. Therefore, anomalies in the kid’s body shape and location determine how quickly scoliosis develops as the youngster grows. Younger age of discovery is common for congenital scoliosis since these abnormalities are present from birth.

Symmetrical curvature of the spine is known as neuromuscular scoliosis. This category of disorders includes scoliosis linked with cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy, and even spina bifida. Idiopathic scoliosis usually does not develop as quickly as this kind, and surgery is often required.


Scoliosis may be detected through x-ray, radiograph, CT scan, or MRI. Using the Cobb Method, the degree of severity of the curve may be calculated and shown. In order to make a scoliosis diagnosis, a posterior-anterior radiograph must show a coronal curvature of greater than 10 degrees. Curves with an arc greater than 25 to 30 degrees are often regarded as significant. Severe curves are those greater than 45 to 50 degrees, need more extensive correction.

The Adam’s Forward Bend Test is a common screening tool used by clinicians and schools alike. During this exam, the patient leans over with his ankles together and bends 90 ° somewhere at the waist. From this perspective, the examiner may readily see any asymmetry of the trunk or any aberrant spinal curvatures. However, this is a basic first screening test that may uncover possible abnormalities but cannot properly determine the specific kind or degree of the abnormality. Radiographic exams can only make a correct and conclusive diagnosis.


The structure of the vertebrae and the form of the joints may be shown by the use of radiation to create a film or image of a segment of the body. X-rays of the spine are also taken to rule out other possibilities, including infections, fractures, and more.

A CT Scan 

A computer-generated image that depicts the anatomy of the spinal canal, its contents, and the structures that surround it may be used as a diagnostic tool. Very good at imagining the contours of bones.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) 

 A diagnostic procedure that provides three-dimensional pictures of human structures using strong magnets and computer technology; may reveal the spinal cord, nerve roots, surrounding regions, and enlargement, degeneration, and abnormalities.

Children Scoliosis

Scoliosis in children is grouped according to their age group:

  • Adolescents of all ages
  • Puberty till the point of skeletal maturity

The majority of instances of adolescent-onset scoliosis are caused by an unknown factor. For mild to moderate cases, bracing, monitoring or even surgery may be used to treat scoliosis.

Children with congenital scoliosis are more likely to have other birth defects. (20 percent), genitourinary (20 to 33 percent), and cardiovascular (10 to 15 percent) systems are most often associated with these symptoms (10 to 15 percent). When congenital scoliosis is discovered, an evaluation of the neurological, genitourinary, and cardiovascular systems is necessary.

Adult Scoliosis

Scoliosis that arises or is diagnosed in adults is separate from childhood scoliosis, as the underlying causes and aims of therapy vary in individuals who have already attained skeletal maturity. However, most individuals with scoliosis may be categorized into the following categories:

  • A group of adults who had surgery as teenagers for the curvature of the spine. 
  • Athletes above the age of 18 who did not get therapy as children.
  • Degenerative scoliosis is the medical name for a specific kind of adult scoliosis.

According to 20-year research, almost 40% of adults with scoliosis had their condition worsen throughout that time period. Ten percent of them saw significant progress, whereas the other three-quarters experienced just moderate progress, usually less than one degree every year.

Degenerative scoliosis develops more often in the lumbar spine (lower back) and more typically affects adults age 65 and older. Spinal stenosis, or a spinal canal narrowing, is often associated with this condition, making it more difficult for the spinal nerves to function properly. It is common for people with degenerative scoliosis to have back pain as a result of exercising. The curvature of the spine in this kind of scoliosis is frequently relatively modest thus, surgery may only be indicated when conservative measures fail to reduce discomfort associated with the disease.