Doctors at the OHSU Spine Center in Portland, Oregon treat children and adults with scoliosis (spine curvature). We use conservative (non-surgical) scoliosis treatments and do surgery when necessary.
What is Scoliosis?
If you look at a healthy spine from behind, it looks straight. Scoliosis results in a crooked spine that curves from side to side (spine curvature). The curve can look like the letter S, the letter C or a combination of the two. If the spine also rotates (twists), the person with scoliosis might seem to lean sideways.
Scoliosis is a medical condition and should not be confused with poor posture.
If you have scoliosis, your spine might curve to the left, the right or different ways in different areas. Scoliosis can affect the thoracic spine (mid-back) and lumbar spine (lower back).
Causes of Scoliosis
There are many possible causes for scoliosis, including:
- Birth defects such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida or muscular dystrophy
- Diseases such as Marfan syndrome, achondroplasia or neurofibromatosis
- Spinal disc degeneration
- Spinal tumor
For more than 80 percent of people with scoliosis, there is no known cause. This is called idiopathic scoliosis. Girls are more likely than boys to develop this type of scoliosis, which can pass down from parent to child.
There are two main types of scoliosis, depending on the cause:
Nonstructural scoliosis (also called functional scoliosis): The spine structure is normal, but another medical condition makes it appear to curve. The condition can be:
- Leg length difference
- Inflammatory condition
- Other cause
This type of scoliosis is usually temporary. It can be relieved when the underlying condition is treated.
Structural scoliosis:The spine itself is curved. Possible causes include:
- Unknown origin (idiopathic structural scoliosis)
- Disease or injury
- Birth defect
- Abnormal growth or tumor
Symptoms of scoliosis include:
- Difference in shoulder height
- Head is not centered on the body
- Difference in hip height or position
- Difference in shoulder blade height or position
- When standing straight, difference in the way arms hang beside the body
- When bending forward, the sides of the back appear different in height
Back pain, leg pain and changes in bowel and bladder habits are not common symptoms of idiopathic scoliosis.If you have these symptoms, talk with your doctor.
Scoliosis symptoms can resemble other spinal conditions, or be a result of injury or infection. Always talk to a doctor if you have symptoms that concern you. Make an appointment at OHSU Spine Center to discuss scoliosis treatment options with a specialist.