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, and rotate. Unlike poor posture, these curves can’t 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 a person with scoliosis looks more like an “S” or a “C” than a straight line. These curves can make the person’s shoulders or waist appear uneven. Some of these bones may also be rotated slightly, making one shoulder blade more prominent than the other.
Scoliosis is a descriptive term and not a diagnosis. In more than 80% of cases, a specific cause is not known. Such cases are termed “idiopathic”, meaning “of undetermined cause”. This is particularly common in adolescent girls. Idiopathic scoliosis is typically called “infantile” in children 0-3 years old, “juvenile” in children 4-10 years old, “adolescent” in adolescents 11-18 years old, and “adult” in patients over 18 years old. Conditions known to cause spinal deformity are congenital spinal column abnormalities (present at birth – called congenital scoliosis), neurologic disorders (neuromuscular scoliosis), genetic conditions, and many other causes. Scoliosis does not come from carrying heavy things, athletic involvement, sleeping/standing postures, or minor leg length abnormalities.