What Causes Scoliosis?

What is scoliosis

Scoliosis is a musculoskeletal disorder that causes an abnormal curve of the spine, or backbone. The spine has normal curves when looking from the side, but it should appear straight when looking from the front. Kyphosis is a curve seen from the side in which the spine is bent forward. Lordosis is a curve seen from the side in which the spine is bent backward. People with scoliosis develop additional curves to either side, or the bones of the spine twist on each other like a corkscrew.

If the person is less than 3 years old, it is called infantile idiopathic scoliosis. Scoliosis that develops between 3 and 10 years of age is called juvenile idiopathic scoliosis, and people that are over 10 years old have adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (scoliosis of unknown cause) is the most common type. Girls are more likely than boys to have this type of scoliosis. Since scoliosis can run in families, a child who has a parent, brother, or sister with idiopathic scoliosis should be checked regularly for scoliosis by the family physician.

Causes of scoliosis

There are three other main types of scoliosis:

Functional

In this type of scoliosis, the spine is normal, but an abnormal curve develops because of a problem somewhere else in the body. This could be caused by one leg being shorter than the other or by muscle spasms in the back.

Neuromuscular

In this type of scoliosis, there is a problem when the bones of the spine are formed. Either the bones of the spine fail to form completely, or they fail to separate from each other. This type of scoliosis develops in people with other disorders including birth defects, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, or Marfan’s disease. If the curve is present at birth, it is called congenital. This type of scoliosis is often much more severe and needs more aggressive treatment than other forms of scoliosis.

Degenerative

Unlike the other forms of scoliosis that are found in children and teens, degenerative scoliosis occurs in older adults. It is caused by changes in the spine due to arthritis. Weakening of the normal ligaments and other soft tissues of the spine combined with abnormal bone spurs can lead to an abnormal curvature of the spine.

Others

There are other potential causes of scoliosis, including spine tumors such as osteoid osteoma. This is a benign tumor that can occur in the spine and cause pain. The pain causes people to lean to the opposite side to reduce he amount of pressure applied to the tumor. This can lead to a spinal deformity.

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