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Ask the Expert: Scoliosis

Woman with back pain

Q1. What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis causes the spine to curve sideways to varying degrees in an “S” or “C” shape. It can cause the bones of the spine to turn so that one part of the body, such as a shoulder or hip, looks to be higher than the other. Scoliosis can occur at any age, and can also run in families if the case happens to be known.

Q2. Are there different types of scoliosis?

Yes, there are three different forms of scoliosis. The most common type is known as idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic means that there is no known cause for this condition. In the case of adolescents, the spine is curved in one or more planes. Neuromuscular scoliosis comes as a result of abnormalities of the muscle-nerve pathways of the body, and is regarded to be highly severe in non-ambulatory patients. Examples include cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, and paralysis. Lastly, congenital scoliosis comes from the result of the improper vertebrae formation. This form of scoliosis is often present at birth.

Q3. Who is at high risk?

When it comes to scoliosis, it can occur in all age groups. However, adolescent idiopathic scoliosis happens to be found more frequently among girls than boys. It is commonly diagnosed in girls between the ages of 10 to 15 as they are more likely to have a progressive curve that will require treatment.

Q4. What are your recommendations for prevention?

Early diagnosis can lead to effective brace treatment, which has been shown to help control the progression of scoliosis in a significant percentage of patients. When it comes to bracing, it aims to prevent the existing curves from the possibility of getting worse. It can be effective if the patient is still growing and the spinal curvature falls between the range of 25 and 45 degrees. If the curve exceeds 45 degrees, surgery is often recommended, especially if the patient is still growing.

Q5. Is there any ongoing research pertaining to scoliosis?

Hospital for Special Surgery has one of the largest collections of surgeons who are active members of the prestigious Scoliosis Research Society. HSS is proud to have one of the oldest and strongest groups of scoliosis experts in the country. Our Scoliosis Service here at HSS offer patients the most advanced care and treatment, and surgeons within this service are members of the Spine Care Institute at HSS, which aims to bring all aspects of scoliosis and spine care to our patients.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.