About 2% of people are affected by this deformation of the spine, which by definition is when the spine appears curved, rather than straight, when viewed from behind.
Scoliosis may run in families but in most cases the cause is unknown. It frequently develops before puberty and can go unnoticed because it often causes no pain. In adults, scoliosis may develop due to worsening of a slight curvature from childhood, from progressive degenerative process related to aging, or from fractures related to osteoporosis.
Scoliosis can limit a person's ability to move normally. It can also bring on pain and restrict a person’s ability to breathe if a misshapen rib cage affects normal lung growth. Warning signs include uneven shoulders, a protrusion of one or both shoulder blades, an uneven waist or an elevated hip. A person experiencing any of these symptoms should see a physician for an accurate diagnosis.
Most people with scoliosis do not need treatment. Early detection is important because medical observation is needed during the growing years to make sure the curve does not worsen. If intervention is needed, an orthopedic brace may prevent further curvature. In some cases, spinal fusion surgery may be needed to straighten and stabilize the spine.