Scoliosis is an abnormal curve of the spine. Instead of going from top to bottom in a straight line, the spine may have a side-to-side “S-shaped” or “C-shaped” curve. Mild curves will not cause problems. People with very bad curves can have pain, loss of strength, and low self-esteem due to the way the curve looks. These people may also have heart and lung problems if those organs are restricted in the chest.

Children may also have kyphosis. This is an abnormal forward curve. It often happens in the upper back.

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Scoliosis often starts when a child is 8 to 10 years old, but it can start as any age. The curve can slowly get worse as the child grows.

There are many types of scoliosis.


Structural scoliosis happens due to a vertebral body defect. It is classified based on the cause:

  • Congenital—happens during fetal development and is often present at birth
  • Syndromic—happens due to an underlying health problem that affects the nerves, muscles, or bones in the back and spine
  • Idiopathic—happens without a known cause, but is likely due to a mix of many genetic factors

They may also be classified by the age of a child when it starts, such as congenital, infant, juvenile, or adolescent.


Functional scoliosis is due to a health problem that affects the alignment of the spine. This can be due to muscle imbalances, differing leg lengths, or other health problems that cause the muscles to tense and spasm.

This type can be reversed by treating the underlying problem.

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