Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that’s greater than 10 degrees. The curve may be shaped like an S or a C.

Scoliosis affects 2 to 3 percent of the population — an estimated 7 million people in the U.S. It can range from mild, barely noticeable cases to complex conditions that cause severe pain or even lead to heart and lung complications. Scoliosis is often diagnosed in childhood, but it also can develop later in life.

In more than 80 percent of cases, the cause of scoliosis in young people is unknown. Other cases can result from congenital (present at birth) malformation of the vertebrae, paralysis, tumors, spinal cord abnormalities, infection or other conditions. In some adult cases, scoliosis may develop along with spinal disc degeneration.

At El Camino Hospital, our highly skilled orthopedic spine surgeons treat a variety of spine disorders, including scoliosis. If you suspect that you or your child may have scoliosis or another spine disorder, don’t wait to seek help. Without early treatment, the problem can become more serious and require advanced treatment.


The signs of scoliosis include an imbalance, or asymmetry, in the positioning and height of your shoulders, head, hips and arms. Noticeable signs include:

  • The height or position of your shoulders or hips.
  • The way your arms hang beside your body when you’re standing straight.
  • The height of the sides of your back when you bend forward.
  • How your head is positioned on your body — not centered.

Scoliosis isn't typically painful in children, but it often causes pain in adults. Because the symptoms may be due to a serious injury, infection or other spine disorder, it's important to see a spine surgeon for a diagnosis.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and use imaging exams such as X-rays, MRI or CT scans to diagnose the condition and develop a treatment plan. 

At El Camino Hospital, we offer a full range of treatments for scoliosis. Our spine specialists will work with you to find the right solution. 

Treatment may include:

  • Observation and repeated exams. In most cases, your doctor will observe your condition over time to determine whether it's continuing to curve and requires treatment. A genetic saliva test is available for children ages 9 to 13 who have mild curvature of the spine (10 to 25 degrees). The test can predict curve progression, allowing your doctor to develop a monitoring program and treatment based on your child’s unique condition.
  • Bracing. Your doctor may recommend bracing for a child whose curvature measures between 25 and 40 degrees. The type of brace and the amount of time spent in the brace depends on the severity of the condition.
  • Surgery. When curvature measures more than 45 degrees, your doctor may recommend surgery to correct the curve or prevent it from getting worse. The spine surgeons at El Camino Hospital have the expertise to perform a full range of spine procedures. 

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