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At Hopkins Children’s, the Division of Orthopedics treats Scoliosis.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the backbone or spine, often in an S or C shape. This condition is most common in late childhood and early teens, when children grow quickly. Girls are more likely to develop scoliosis than boys. Three of every 100 people have some form of this condition. 

There are three general causes of scoliosis: 

  • Congenital scoliosis is due to a problem with the formation of vertebrae or fused ribs in the womb. 
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by problems such as poor muscle control or muscular weakness or paralysis due to diseases such as cerebral palsymuscular dystrophyspina bifida and polio. 
  • Idiopathic scoliosis has unknown origins, and it occurs in a spine that was once straight. This is the most common form of the condition. 


Someone with scoliosis may lean to one side and have uneven shoulders and hips. 


Routine scoliosis screening is recommended in middle school and junior high. It is beneficial to detect the condition at an early stage.  


Your doctor will perform a physical exam, which includes a forward bending test to help define the curve. Any child found with a curve is likely to be referred for an x-ray. A neurologic exam will determine any changes in strength, sensation, or reflexes. 

Tests may include: 

  • Spine x-rays (taken from the front and the side) 
  • Scoliometer measurements (a device for measuring the curvature of the spine) 
  • MRI (if there are any neurologic changes noted on the exam or if there is something unusual in the x-ray ) 

How to Treat Scoliosis

Children with mild scoliosis might only need checkups to see if the curve is getting worse. Other children might need to wear a back brace or have surgery. 

A brace uses pressure to help straighten the spine, but it does not reverse the curve. A brace may also be required to stabilize the spine after surgery. 

External Links:

Scoliosis Research Society 

National Scoliosis Foundation 

National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases 

National Institutes of Health