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Scoliosis: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Sep 25, 2023

Scoliosis: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine that is typically identified during adolescence. While scoliosis can affect adults who have diseases like cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the majority of infantile scoliosis has an unknown origin.

Most scoliosis cases are moderate, however, some curvature gets worse as children get older. Scoliosis that is severe could result in disability. It may be more difficult for the lungs to work correctly if there is less room in the chest as a result of a particularly severe spinal bend.

Mild scoliosis in children is regularly watched to determine if the curve is worsening, usually with X-rays. Many times, no therapy is required. Some children may require the use of a brace to stop the curvature from worsening.

 Others might require surgery to straighten in case of severe curves.

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Causes Of Scoliosis

Though it appears to consist of genetic factors because the condition occasionally runs in families, healthcare specialists are uncertain of what causes the most prevalent type of scoliosis. Less frequent forms of scoliosis may be brought on by:

  • Some neuromuscular diseases, like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.
  • Birth anomalies affect how the spine's bones develop.
  • Previous chest wall surgery as a child.
  • Spine infections or injuries.
  • Abnormalities in the spinal cord.

Symptoms Of Scoliosis

Scoliosis symptoms could include:

  • Shoulders that are not balanced.
  • One shoulder blade is more prominent than the other.
  • An uneven waist.
  • One hip is higher than the other.
  • The rib cage protrudes forward on one side.
  • There is a prominence on one side of the back when leaned forward.
  • In the majority of scoliosis cases, the spine will also rotate or twist in addition to curving in one direction. As a result, the ribs or muscles on one side of the body protrude further than those on the other.

Risk factors Of Scoliosis

The following are risk factors for the most prevalent type of scoliosis:

  • Age. Adolescence is usually when signs and symptoms first appear.
  • Sex. Boys and girls both experience mild scoliosis at roughly the same rates, but girls are considerably more likely to experience the curvature deteriorating and needing treatment.
  • Family background. Although scoliosis can run in families, the majority of affected youngsters don't have a family history of the disease.

Diagnosis Of Scoliosis

A thorough medical history will be taken at the outset, and possible inquiries regarding recent growth will be asked by the healthcare professionals. To check if one side of the rib cage is more prominent than the other during the physical examination, your doctor may ask your child to stand up, lean forward from the waist, and hang their arms loosely.

An examination of your nervous system may also be done by your doctor to look for:

  • Lack of strength in the muscles.
  • Numbness.
  • Reflexes.
  • Imagery tests
  • Scoliosis can be diagnosed and the severity of the spinal curvature can be shown on plain X-rays. Since several X-rays will be performed over the years to determine whether the curve is becoming worse, repeated radiation exposure may become a concern.

Your doctor can advise a particular imaging technique that produces a 3D model of the spine using lower radiation doses in order to reduce this risk. However, not all hospitals have access to this technology. Another technique is ultrasound, although it may not be as accurate in assessing the severity of the scoliosis curve.

If your healthcare provider suspects that an underlying issue, such as an irregularity in the spinal cord, is the base of your scoliosis, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be advised.

Treatment Of Scoliosis

Scoliosis has no known treatment, but it frequently resolves on its own. If you exhibit no symptoms or have minor symptoms, you might not even require treatment. Your condition's severity and scope will determine if you need treatment or not and also what type of treatment is needed.


You'll most likely be given medicine to treat your symptoms if they're severe or if your organ function is at risk. These may consist of:

  • Corticosteroids. The first line of treatment for  Scoliosis is typically one of these potent anti-inflammatory medications. In some circumstances, corticosteroids can be injected directly into the region that is affected, either as drops in the eyes or a cream for a skin lesion.
  • Immune system suppressing drugs. By suppressing the immune system, drugs like methotrexate (Trexall) and azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran) reduce inflammation.
  • Hydroxychloroquine. Skin lesions and increased blood calcium levels may be treated with hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil).
  • TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor) inhibitors. These drugs are frequently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis-related inflammation. They can also be useful in treating Scoliosis that hasn't responded to other treatments.

To address particular symptoms or consequences, other drugs may be used.

Additional therapies

Other therapies can be suggested based on your symptoms or problems. For instance, you might receive physical therapy to strengthen your muscle strength and reduce fatigue, pulmonary rehabilitation to lessen respiratory symptoms, or an implanted cardiac pacemaker or defibrillator to treat abnormal heart rhythms.

Continual observation

Depending on your symptoms and the medications you are taking, your doctor visit frequency may change. Even if you don't require treatment, it's still crucial to visit your doctor often.

Your doctor will keep track of your symptoms, evaluate the efficacy of therapies, and look for problems. Depending on your health, monitoring could involve regular testing. You might undergo routine chest X-rays, lab and urine testing, EKGs, and examinations of the lungs, eyes, skin, and any other affected organs. Care after treatment could last a lifetime.


If Scoliosis has severely damaged your lungs, heart, or liver, an organ transplant may be a potential solution.

Complications Of Scoliosis

The majority of scoliosis sufferers have a moderate form of the condition, however, it can occasionally result in consequences such as:

  • Breathing problems. Severe scoliosis may make breathing more difficult because the rib cage may press on the lungs.
  • Lower back pain. In particular, if their curves are significant and untreated, individuals with childhood scoliosis may be more prone to experience chronic back discomfort.
  • Appearance. More obvious changes such as a shift in the waist and trunk to one side, protruding ribs, and unequal hips and shoulders, can occur as scoliosis gets worse. Scoliosis sufferers frequently experience body consciousness.

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