Scoliosis Fact Sheet



What is scoliosis?

     Everyone’s spine has natural curves.  These curves round our shoulders and make our lower back curve slightly inward.  But some people have spines that also curve from side to side.  Unlike poor posture, these curves cannot be corrected simply by learning to stand up straight. 

     This condition of side-to-side spinal curves is called scoliosis.  On an X-ray, the spine of an individual with scoliosis looks more like an “S” or a “C” than a straight line.  Some of the bones in a scoliotic spine also may have rotated slightly, making the person’s waist or shoulders appear uneven. 


Who gets scoliosis?

     Scoliosis affects a small percentage of the population, approximately 2%.  However, scoliosis runs in families.  If someone in a family has scoliosis, the likelihood of an incidence is much higher—approximately 20%.

     In children, the vast majority of scoliosis is “idiopathic”, meaning its cause is unknown.  It usually develops in middle or late childhood, before puberty, and is seen more often in girls than boys.  Most scoliosis is found in otherwise healthy youngsters.

The importance of early detection—tips for parents

     Idiopathic scoliosis can go unnoticed in a child because it is rarely painful in the formative years.  Therefore, parents should watch for the following “tip-offs” to scoliosis beginning when their child is about 8 years old:

 *Uneven shoulders                                                            *Elevated Hips

 *Prominent shoulder blade or shoulder blades                    *Leaning to one side

 *Uneven waist

If any of these signs are observed, an appointment should be made with the child’s family doctor, pediatrician, or orthopedic doctor for a comprehensive physical exam and possibly spinal xrays.


     In planning treatment for each child, the doctor will carefully consider a variety of factors, including the history of scoliosis in the family, the age at which the curve began, the curve’s location and severity of the curve. 

     Most spine curves in children with scoliosis will remain small and need only to be watched by a doctor for any sign of progression.  If a curve does progress, an orthopedic brace can be used to prevent it from getting worse.  Children undergoing treatment with orthopedic braces can continue to participate in the full range of physical and social activities.

     If a scoliosis curve is severe when it is first seen, or if treatment with a brace does not control the curve, surgery may be necessary.  In these cases, surgery has been found to be a highly effective and safe treatment.


Scoliosis is a common problem that usually requires only observation with repeated examination in the growing years.  Early detection is important to make sure the curve does not progress.  In the relatively small number of cases that need medical intervention, advances in modern orthopedic techniques have made scoliosis a highly manageable condition.

Reference:  American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Online Service Patient Education Brochure:  Scoliosis