Idiopathic Scoliosis

Idiopathic scoliosis is the abnormal lateral curvature of the spine that occurs because of no known cause, and may require medical intervention if it causes back pain or if the condition progresses.

Imagine having X-ray vision and being able to view your spine from both a front and side views. When viewing your own spine from a frontal you would be standing directly in front of yourself, and when viewing the spine from a side (lateral) view your line of sight would pass directly through one side of the chest to the other. From the frontal view, your spine would look perfectly straight from top bottom. From the side view of the spine, you would see three major curvatures. From the base of the skull, the spine would curve towards the back of your body, in an arc known as the cervical curvature. At around the base of your neck, your spine would then curve towards the front of your body in an arc known as the thoracic curvature. The spine then curves backwards again in an arc known as the lumbar curvature. These curvatures are normal. One curvature that is not normal is the condition of scoliosis. Scoliosis would be a sideways curvature of the spine, as opposed to the straight curvature you would expect to see when viewing the spine from front to back. While you may not have X-Ray vision, doctors have X-Rays to diagnose scoliosis.

When scoliosis occurs, its abnormal sideways curvature may present in one of three ways:
  • There is one major lateral curvature to the spine. When arc is to the right, this condition is known as dextroscoliosis.
  • There is one major lateral curvature to the spine. When arc is to the left, this condition is known as levoscoliosis.
  • There are two major lateral curvatures. On an X-Ray, the shape of the spine may resemble the letter S.


Scoliosis is either present when we are born (congenital scoliosis), occurs at an early age when children are developing, or occurs later in life due to degenerative changes to the spine (degenerative scoliosis). Though there are several congenital diseases that often cause this condition, in the majority of cases, we never learn the cause of the condition. Idiopathic scoliosis is scoliosis of no known cause. Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common cause of scoliosis in children, and the most common type of scoliosis overall. Though the curvature is not normal, and may be severe enough to be seen in a person with the naked eye, it often does not cause back pain or disability. Nevertheless, the condition should be monitored closely to make sure that the angle of curvature does not increase. Medical intervention may be required if the curvature progresses.

Approximately 2% of the population are affected by scoliosis. If this condition is detecting while the child is still growing, doctors may want to intervene to keep it from getting any worse. The patient may have back pain in the future, as a result of this condition. Other possible effects include a reduction in lung functioning, which occurs in 0.2-0.5% of all cases. The ribs of the rib cage connect with the transverse processes of the spinal bones, and major lateral scoliosis may pull these vertebral bones far enough out of position to affect respiration.