Understanding the cause of scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition that affects the spine and can cause pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, numbness and tingling in the arms or legs. Having scoliosis doesn’t mean you need surgery or even treatment; it just means you’ll have to work with a scoliosis specialist to correct it. If your child has scoliosis at a young age, they’re likely to outgrow it naturally as they age. However, if they don’t show signs of improvement by their teen years, this can be more serious and require surgery or other interventions.

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves abnormally. This curvature can be mild or severe and often progresses into adulthood. Scoliosis may be visible as a sideways “C” curve in your child’s back, or it may not be visible without an X-ray.

Scoliosis can cause various symptoms such as pain, fatigue and weakness that vary depending on the severity of the curve. The most common symptom of scoliosis is back pain that occurs near where your rib cage meets your spine (ribs) or hip bones on one side of your body, especially when you bend forward to brush your teeth or tie shoes. In some cases, there are no symptoms until one is diagnosed with scoliosis during an X-ray examination performed for other reasons (such as broken bones).

How does scoliosis affect people?

Scoliosis can cause pain and discomfort, but it’s not always a painful condition. If you have scoliosis, you might find that your spine curves to the right or left. Your ribs might also curve as well. This can affect your breathing and muscle tension as well as make it hard to exercise or sit for long periods.

Is scoliosis the same as Kyphoscoliosis?

An abnormal curve of the thoracic spine is not unique to scoliosis, but it is a term that is often confused with the curvature of the spine itself. Kyphoscoliosis occurs when there is an abnormal curvature in either side of your upper back and chest area, specifically in your thoracic region. The normal curvature of this section of the spine typically rounds down at a gentle angle toward your abdomen.

What conditions cause scoliosis?

Scoliosis is caused by several medical conditions, some of which are genetic.

The spine is made up of a column-like structure called vertebrae that protect the spinal cord, which runs from the brain to the base of our spine. Scoliosis can be caused by a number of different things that affect this column-like structure, including:

  • An injury or infection
  • A metabolic disorder (such as osteoporosis)
  • Other conditions that affect how the spine develops

When should a child be screened for scoliosis?

The first step in the diagnosis by a scoliosis specialist is the assessment of a child’s spine. Screening should begin at age 12, with a follow-up exam performed at age 18. Those with curves more significant than 20 degrees should be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon for further evaluation and treatment when they reach puberty or adolescence. The next screening should take place around age 21 when complete growth has been achieved.


Scoliosis is a serious condition that can cause lifelong disability if left untreated. The best way to prevent the onset of scoliosis is to screen children for it regularly, starting as early as possible and continuing throughout their teenage years. If you are concerned about your child having scoliosis, contact your paediatrician immediately so they can assess them for signs of the condition and make recommendations based on their findings.

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