Causes of Scoliosis

Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis and Other Types of Scoliosis Have Different Causes

Peer Reviewed

Because there are different types of scoliosis, there are different causes. The types of scoliosis are:

  • Idiopathic Scoliosis: Idiopathic is a medical term meaning "occurring without known cause." In other words, doctors don't know why you developed scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis is broken down into four categories: o Infantile idiopathic scoliosis is the term used for children under 3.

    Child and Adult HandsJuvenile idiopathic scoliosis refers to children ages 3 to 9.

    Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is for children ages 10 to 18.

    Adult idiopathic scoliosis is the term for people who've reached skeletal maturity (i.e., their bones are fully grown).

    Over 80% of scoliosis cases are idiopathic, and of those cases, 80% are adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis is most common in girls.
  • Congenital Scoliosis: Congenital means "present at birth." Congenital scoliosis is the result of malformation of part of the spine, and this malformation happens sometime in the third to sixth week of a pregnancy—that's when the spine starts to develop. Congenital scoliosis is usually the result of one side of a vertebra not forming fully. Doctors call this growth imbalance a hemivertebra, and it causes the spine to grow crooked. Congenital scoliosis can also occur when vertebrae don't segment like they should; they're naturally fused together in what's called a block vertebra. That also affects how the spine grows.
  • Neuromuscular Scoliosis: Children who have a neurological system disorder-such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or muscular dystrophy-can develop neuromuscular scoliosis. In this type of scoliosis, the spine usually takes on a long, c-shaped curve because the children have very weak trunks and aren't able to support their bodies.
  • Adult or Degenerative Scoliosis: This type of scoliosis becomes apparent in later life. It usually occurs when the disease went unnoticed or was not treated during childhood. Osteoporosis, disc degeneration, a spinal compression fracture, or a combination of these problems can contribute to the development of adult scoliosis.

Increasingly, scientists are finding evidence for some scoliosis running in families (genetic). So if someone else in your family has or has had scoliosis, you have a greater risk for developing it.

Updated on: 09/13/16
Continue Reading
Childhood Testing for Scoliosis
Mary Rodts, DNP
This article was reviewed by Mary Rodts, DNP, CNP, ONC, FAAN.
Continue Reading:

Childhood Testing for Scoliosis

For some parents and children, it's a school nurse who first notices the scoliosis. Early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to prevent curve progression.
Read More