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by LaRusso L

Risk Factors

Idiopathic scoliosis is more common during the rapid growth phase of adolescence. Family history of scoliosis may also increase your child's chance of developing scoliosis.
Girls are more likely to have more severe curves. Scoliosis severity may also be influenced by:
  • Delayed puberty in boys and girls
  • Delayed first period in girls


In most cases, scoliosis doesn't have symptoms that can be felt. It is generally detected during a screening test, but may be noticed by the child or another person.
Some schools have scoliosis screening programs. If scoliosis is detected in school, you will be advised to follow-up with your doctor.
Scoliosis may may cause:
  • Uneven shoulders
  • Prominent shoulder blade or ribs
  • Uneven waist
  • An elevated hip
  • Leaning to one side
  • Chronic back pain—rare in teens, but more common in adults
More severe cases of scoliosis can lead to:
  • Body image issues
  • Breathing difficulties due to pressure on the lungs and heart from a compressed rib cage
  • Rarely, cor pulmonale—right-sided heart failure caused by high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs


Functional scoliosis is reversible with treatment of the underlying condition.
Children with structural types of scoliosis will be referred to a spinal specialist if treatment is needed.
Scoliosis treatment depends on many factors. These include:
  • Severity of the curve
  • Child's age
  • Child's stage of growth
  • If back pain is involved, or other if your child has other symptoms
In general, children with a mild curve are treated with observation. This means your child will have regular follow-up exams and sometimes x-rays to see if the curve worsens. Frequency of follow-up appointments depends on age, stage of growth, and the severity of the curve.
Other treatment methods include:


The goal of bracing is to prevent curves from getting worse. Your doctor may recommend that you wear a back brace if you are still growing and your curve is more than 20º-25°. Once you stop growing, the need for more treatment will depend on the size of the curve and how it affects your appearance and function.
Bracing may not be helpful in girls who have had their period for more than a year, in children who have attained full growth, or are within one year of full pelvic bone growth.
Bracing will feel uncomfortable at first. Children will need lots of support to wear the brace as prescribed, as well as encouragement to foster a positive body image.


In severe cases where the curvature is greater than 40°-50°, your doctor may recommend surgery to lessen the curve or stop it from worsening if you are still growing. Surgery typically involves fusing the vertebrae of the spine together or the use of internal rods to decrease the curvature. Hospitalization can last 5-7 days. Recovery can take several months. Surgical techniques using stapling methods or implants, as well as other surgical techniques, are also available, but some are still experimental.


American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

Scoliosis Research Society



Caring for Kids

Health Canada



Altaf F, Gibson A, et al. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. BMJ. 2013;346:f2508.

Idiopathic scoliosis in children and adolescents. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: Updated March 2010. Accessed November 20, 2013.

Questions and answers about scoliosis in children and adolescents. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: Updated July 2013. Accessed November 20, 2013.

Scoliosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated October 29, 2013. Accessed November 20, 2013.

What is scoliosis? Fast Facts: An Easy-to-Read Series of Publications for the Public. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: Updated March 2009. Accessed November 20, 2013.

4/1/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Choosing wisely. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated March 26, 2014. Accessed April 1, 2014.


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