Explore Adolescent Scoliosis

Scoliosis is defined as a sideways curve of the spine. A normal spine appears straight when viewed from behind, whereas a spine affected by scoliosis looks like an “S” or “C” when viewed from behind. The most common type of adolescent scoliosis is called Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS). The word “idiopathic” means unknown cause.

Causes of Adolescent Scoliosis

The majority of the time doctors do not know what causes scoliosis. But doctors do know that scoliosis tends to run in families – about 30% of children with AIS have a family history of scoliosis.

Screening for Adolescent Scoliosis

Most of the time, scoliosis is not noticed until early teenage years (10-15) when children are going through a growth spurt. Girls are more likely to get scoliosis than boys, and girls are more likely to need treatment for it. The Scoliosis Research Society recommends that girls be screened at age 10 and 12 and that boys be screen once around aged 12/13.


To know the exact degree of the curvature of the spine, a doctor will request an x-ray of the spine. While scoliosis can sometimes be seen without an x-ray, an x-ray is an important tool in making an accurate diagnoses.

Treating Adolescent Scoliosis

Some children have a small curve in their spine that does not require treatment. They will grow up to lead normal lives, but their spine will always have a small curve. The doctor will monitor the spine over several visits to make sure it is not getting worse.

For larger curves in the spine, doctors might recommend a back brace to stop the curvature from getting worse. If your child is still growing, this is especially important. The brace will not correct the curve in the spine that is already there, but it will prevent the spine from curving more. Some braces are worn only at night, while others are meant to be worn day and night.

In the most severe cases, surgery might be recommended to treat scoliosis. This is not very common, but a severe curvature of the spine can cause nerve, heart and lung problems. In surgery to treat scoliosis, the doctor will fuse together some of the bones in the spine to prevent the spine from curving. The doctor will also use a metal rod and screws to hold everything together until the bones heal.

Living with Scoliosis

Children affected by scoliosis can participate in any sports and activities, as long as they do not complain of back aches. There are hardly ever restrictions put on children with scoliosis. Even children who have surgery for their scoliosis are not restricted once they have recovered from surgery. And while some people think that heavy backpacks and bad posture can make scoliosis worse, this is not true. Heavy backpacks and bad posture can cause back ache, but it is not related to scoliosis.