What Is Scoliosis? Scoliosis is when the vertebrae (the small bones in the spine) form a curved line instead of being straight. Sometimes they also rotate (twist), like a corkscrew. This can cause health problems. Although the spine is sometimes called "the backbone," it's not just one bone. It's made of lots of small bones (called vertebrae) that are connected by a type of elastic tissue called cartilage. This gives people the flexibility to bend, stretch, balance, and even walk. Small curves usually don't cause problems. But a curve that gets worse can be bad for a person's health. Health care providers treat scoliosis with back braces or surgery when needed. What Are the Types of Scoliosis? Orthopedic specialists (doctors and other providers who treat bone and muscle problems) group scoliosis into types. Knowing the type of scoliosis helps health care providers treat it. Idiopathic scoliosis. This is the most common type of scoliosis. Kids can get it at any age, but most of the time it happens around puberty when a child goes through a growth spurt. Experts don't know exactly why this type of scoliosis develops, but it runs in some families. Congenital scoliosis. This type of scoliosis happens when something goes wrong with the way some of the vertebrae developed while a baby was in the womb. The problem might not be noticed until a child goes through a growth spurt, usually around age 2 or between 8 and 13. Scoliosis caused by a medical condition. Some kids develop scoliosis because they have a long-term medical problem that affects the muscles or skeletal system. For example, kids with muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, Marfan syndrome, or osteogenesis imperfecta may get scoliosis. Kids who have had tumors or growths on their spine may also develop scoliosis. How Is Scoliosis Treated? Small curves usually don't cause problems. But a curve that gets worse can be bad for a person's health. Very large curves can damage the joints and cause arthritis of the spine. Large curves can make the ribs rub against the pelvis, causing pain. Someone whose spine curves a lot might get lung problems. If it looks like scoliosis could cause health problems, doctors will treat it with a back brace to prevent it from getting worse. In some cases, kids need surgery. Back to Articles Related Articles Scoliosis Scoliosis makes a person’s spine curve from side to side. Large curves can cause health problems like pain or breathing trouble. Health care providers treat scoliosis with back braces or surgery when needed. Read More X-Ray Exam: Scoliosis Kids with scoliosis have a spine that curves, like an S or a C. If scoliosis is suspected, a doctor may order X-rays to measure the curvature of the spine. Read More Bones, Muscles, and Joints Without bones, muscles, and joints, we couldn't stand, walk, run, or even sit. The musculoskeletal system supports our bodies, protects our organs from injury, and enables movement. Read More Kyphosis Everyone's spine is slightly rounded forward at a gentle angle. If this angle is too pronounced, more than 50 degrees or so, it's called kyphosis, also known as roundback or hunchback. Read More Spinal Fusion Surgery A spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that's done to stabilize or straighten the bones in the back. It can help kids and teens with scoliosis. Read More Word! Scoliosis Scoliosis is an abnormal curve of the spine, also known as the backbone. Read More Kyphosis Your spine, or backbone, normally curves forward gently as it runs up your back. Sometimes, though, someone's back can be rounded too far forward, which is a condition known as kyphosis. Read More Idiopathic Scoliosis Kids of any age can have idiopathic scoliosis, but it's usually found when a child begins going through puberty. Find out more about the signs of and treatment for idiopathic scoliosis. Read More Pectus Excavatum: Vacuum Bell Device Health care providers sometimes suggest that kids use a vacuum bell to help correct pectus excavatum, a condition that causes a caved-in chest. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.