Scoliosis: What It Is, What Causes It and How to Fix It

Dr. Constantine Toumbis

10 February 2023

Scoliosis affects between six and nine million people in the United States, or roughly two to three percent of the population. Though it can affect people of any age, it most commonly begins in early childhood and progresses over time. Here’s what you need to know about scoliosis and what can be done to manage this condition

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is an atypical sideways (lateral) curvature of the spine. This condition can present in the cervical, thoracic or lumbar regions of the spine. In severe cases of scoliosis, the condition may be present in more than one region.

A typical spine features slight curvatures on the sagittal (front to back) plane of the body through all three regions of the spine. These curves serve as natural shock absorption for the body and more evenly distribute stress throughout the body during movement. Lateral deviation from this natural position is measured to determine the severity of scoliosis in a patient.

What Causes Scoliosis?

Approximately 80% of scoliosis cases have no known cause. These cases are known as idiopathic scoliosis and can occur in people of all ages.

A less common form of scoliosis, neuromuscular scoliosis, results from a neuromuscular disorder such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or spina bifida. Scoliosis may also result from a developmental abnormality that occurs during fetal growth, which is known as congenital scoliosis.

Risk Factors for Scoliosis

Idiopathic scoliosis cannot be prevented and does not seem to result from outside factors. However, many scoliosis cases appear to have a hereditary component, as the condition often runs in families. Neuromuscular and congenital scoliosis are caused by underlying medical conditions.

A fourth type of scoliosis, degenerative scoliosis, affects older adults. This type of scoliosis results from the natural aging process and stress on the spine over time.

How To Fix Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a manageable condition. However, an early diagnosis is important, and regular checkups are necessary to prevent larger curvatures from forming, particularly in children.

Scoliosis Symptoms

Patients with scoliosis most often present with uneven shoulders, one shoulder blade more prominent than the other or an uneven waistline. Additional symptoms may include hip misalignment, one side of the rib cage jutting forward or prominently sticking out on one side of the back when bending forward. In some cases, back pain may be present at the time of diagnosis, but this is uncommon.

To confirm a diagnosis of scoliosis, a doctor may perform a series of tests. In addition to a physical examination, an X-ray, spinal radiograph, CT scan or MRI may be ordered to identify a curvature and measure its severity.

Scoliosis Treatment

Only a small percentage of patients with scoliosis will require significant medical intervention. However, since scoliosis has no cure, it’s important to identify the condition early and monitor its progression over time. This will allow for a conservative treatment plan and may reduce the likelihood of more invasive treatment options.

Various scoliosis and deformity treatment options are available depending on the severity of the curvature:

  • Your doctor may suggest physical therapy for support and stability.
  • Epidural steroid injections or facet injections may be used to reduce discomfort and inflammation when pain is present.
  • For younger patients, bracing may be employed to slow or stop the progression of the condition.
  • Spinal surgery may be recommended to correct spinal alignment for severe scoliosis cases.

Scoliosis Surgery

In severe scoliosis cases, surgery may be necessary to realign the spine. During the procedure, a surgeon corrects spinal misalignment by inserting interbody spacers into the spine. Rods and screws are used to maintain alignment as the spinal fusion heals. This procedure returns the spine to proper alignment, restores vertebral disc height and alleviates pressure and pain in the spinal column.

Find Relief From Scoliosis With Citrus Spine Institute

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of scoliosis, it’s important to consult with an expert as soon as possible. At Citrus Spine Institute, our doctors can help you find relief from scoliosis and will work with you to determine the best course of treatment based on your medical history, symptoms and lifestyle. 

Request an appointment today to begin the consultation process.


Dr. Constantine Toumbis

Dr. Toumbis is a board certified, fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in cervical, thoracic and lumbar surgery. He received his undergraduate degree in Biology from New York University in 1987, then continued on to receive his Masters in Natural Sciences as well as a PhD in Experimental Pathology from State University of New York at Buffalo. He completed his medical degree at Wayne State University School of Medicine with a distinction in Biomedical Research. After moving to Florida to complete his internship and residency in orthopedics at the University of Florida Shands Hospital, he went on to pursue a fellowship at Cleveland Clinic's Florida Spine Institute. He moved to Citrus County and has been in private practice since 2005.

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