Scoliosis in Children

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis in children is an abnormal curvature of the spine. There are two types of scoliosis: Structural and Functional.

Structural scoliosis: A permanent sideways curve in the spine that causes spinal deformities such as humpback, swayback, and twisted vertebrae.

Functional scoliosis: Occurs with improper posture, muscle imbalances, or other underlying medical conditions.

What Causes Scoliosis?

Some of the most common causes of scoliosis in children include:

Congenital defects: Defects in the spine that a child is born with. This type of scoliosis appears during infancy or early childhood and can be mild or severe, depending on the severity of the defect.

Neuromuscular conditions: Neuromuscular scoliosis occurs when an underlying neurological or muscular condition affects the spine. This condition can cause the spine to curve abnormally.

Idiopathic: Appears during adolescence, affects girls more often than boys, and tends to be more severe in early adulthood.

Injury: Injury or trauma to the spine can also cause scoliosis in children. The spinal tissues can become damaged, leading to abnormal spine curvature.

Signs & Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of scoliosis in children include:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade appears more prominent than the other.
  • An abnormally curved spine when viewed from the back or sides.
  • A waistline that is off-center or appears uneven.
  • Clothes are not hanging correctly due to an abnormal curvature of the spine.
  • One hip higher than the other
  • Other symptoms: Back pain, difficulty breathing, and fatigue.

Risk Factors

Risk factors can increase a child’s chance of developing scoliosis. These include:

  • Age: Idiopathic scoliosis is more common in pre-adolescents and adolescents between 10 and 15.
  • Gender: Females are almost eight times more likely to develop scoliosis than males.
  • Family History: If a parent or sibling has scoliosis, then there is an increased risk that the child will also develop it.
  • Certain medical conditions: Children with neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy may be at higher risk of developing scoliosis.
  • Congenital disabilities: Children with specific congenital disabilities, such as spina bifida, may likely develop scoliosis.


A physical exam by a doctor looks for any signs of curvature, rotation, and asymmetry in the spine. In addition, shoulders and hips are checked to see if they are level.

Your doctor may also use special tests such as X-rays or an MRI scan to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the curvature.


The treatment in children depends on the type of curvature and severity of the condition.

No treatment is necessary in cases where the curve is mild and does not progress rapidly.

Bracing may be recommended to prevent further spine curving if the curve is severe or progresses quickly.

Surgery can be far more severe curvatures that do not respond to bracing and cause pain or breathing difficulties.

Physical therapy can help improve posture, flexibility, and back muscle strength.


Early detection by a doctor is essential for preventing scoliosis.

Regular check-ups with a pediatrician or physical therapist can help identify any abnormal curvatures in the spine before they become more severe.

CHRISTUS Children's - Orthopedic Clinic

At CHRISTUS Children's - Orthopedic Clinic, our team of fellowship-trained pediatric orthopedic surgeons also includes care members specifically trained in pediatric orthopedics.

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