Hesperian Health Guides

Causes of Spinal Curve (Scoliosis)

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HealthWiki > Disabled Village Children > Chapter 20: Spinal Curve and Other Back Deformities > Causes of Spinal Curve (Scoliosis)


Most scoliosis (about 80%) occurs in otherwise healthy children for no known reason. Sometimes it occurs in several members of the same family, so there may be a hereditary (familial) factor. Although about 1 of every 10 persons has some scoliosis (if looked for), only about 1 in 400 has enough of a curve to be a problem. Curves of unknown cause are often first seen—and progress quickly—in children from 10 to 16 years old, during the period of rapid growth.

Known causes of fixed scoliosis range from infection to tumor to rare disease. When possible, consult a doctor with experience in these problems.

Some children are born with fixed scoliosis, or develop it in early childhood, because of defects in the spine itself.


Sometimes one or more vertebrae are only partly formed and cause the spine to bend to one side. DVC Ch20 Page 162-1.png Sometimes 2 or more vertebrae remain attached or ‘fused’ on one side. They can only grow on the unfused side, causing an increasing curve. DVC Ch20 Page 162-2.png
These problems can be identified only by X-rays.


Non-fixed scoliosis always results secondary to other problems, such as uneven paralysis of the back muscles, or a hip tilt (often due to a shorter leg). Spinal curve often develops in children with polio, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, spinal cord injury, arthritis, and dislocated hip. Be sure to examine all children with these disabilities for spinal curve. With time, nonfixed curves may gradually become fixed.



This page was updated:21 Nov 2019