What Causes Scoliosis in Children?


Certain diseases can affect the spine and cause pain, stiffness, or deformities. In many cases, there is no known cause of scoliosis in a child; in this case, it is called idiopathic scoliosis. Some children are born with a curved spine. Others develop pediatric or adolescent scoliosis as they get older. Sometimes genetic mutations may cause spine problems. Examples of conditions that can affect the spine include:

  • Marfan syndrome
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Juvenile inflammatory arthritis

Types of Scoliosis in Children


Idiopathic scoliosis in children is classified into three main types. These include

  • Infantile idiopathic scoliosis: This the most rare case of idiopathic scoliosis and usually diagnosed in children under 3 years old.
  • Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis: This type of scoliosis is diagnosed in children between the ages of 3 and nine.
  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis: This is the most common type of scoliosis in children, and is diagnosed in children between the ages of 10 and 18.

Symptoms and Signs of Scoliosis in Children


Often, pediatric scoliosis may not cause any symptoms—especially mild scoliosis. In other instances, symptoms may arise and differ depending on what is causing the curve and its location in the spine. Symptoms of scoliosis in children may include:

  • Neck or back pain or achiness
  • Uneven shoulders or seeing one shoulder blade protruding more than the other
  • Uneven hips
  • A rib hump, where one side of the rib cage protrudes backward, especially when a child bends forward as if to touch the toes
  • Problems breathing if curvature is very severe
  • Headache
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness from a problem with a spinal nerve
  • Uneven gait

Risk Factors for Scoliosis in Children

Risk Factors

While it's not clear if one exact cause will lead to scoliosis in children, research suggests that some external factors may play a role. These include

  • Hyperthermia in the mother while pregnant
  • Being pregnant with twins or multiple births
  • Alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy.

When to See a Pediatric Spine Doctor

When to See a Doctor

We understand how upsetting it can be for you and your child when there is a hump in your child's back. We quickly choose the experts required to address scoliosis and meet your child's personal needs.

Our pediatrician typically checks your child each year for curvature of the spine and may recommend that you visit a spine specialist if the spinal curve continues to progress. You should also take your child to the doctor if they are experiencing neck or back pain that doesn't go away, gets worse, or limits their daily activities

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Get Care

Get pediatric scoliosis care from Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian

The pediatric spine experts at Och Spine have the experience and compassion to treat infants, children, and adolescents with scoliosis They will carefully assess your child and customize a plan of care to help them feel and move better. Our medical team will opt for nonsurgical treatments whenever appropriate.

Contact us for an appointment