Tag: how common is scoliosis?

How common is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition that affects the curvature of the spine. The spine has a natural curve, backwards and forwards, but in Scoliosis the spine curves excessively from side to side.  The condition can affect people of all ages, but it is most commonly diagnosed in children and adolescents. In this blog post, we will explore how common scoliosis is and the different factors that can contribute to the development of the condition.


How Common is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a relatively common condition, with an estimated prevalence of 2-3% in the general population. This means that about 2-3 people out of 100 have some degree of scoliosis. The condition is more common in girls than boys, and it tends to run in families. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), approximately 80% of scoliosis cases have no known cause, and the condition is often diagnosed during routine school screenings. This of course isn’t the case in the UK, since school screenings are not provided!

There are different types of scoliosis, and the prevalence of the condition varies depending on the type. Idiopathic scoliosis, which is the most common type, accounts for about 80% of all cases of scoliosis. This type of scoliosis occurs for no known reason (which means that we don’t yet know why, not that there is no reason at all!) and can develop at any age – it is most commonly diagnosed in adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18.

Another type of scoliosis is congenital scoliosis, which is present at birth and is caused by abnormal spinal development. Congenital scoliosis is less common than idiopathic scoliosis and accounts for about 10% of all cases of scoliosis in children. Neuromuscular scoliosis is another type, which is caused by underlying neuromuscular conditions such as cerebral palsy. Overall, congenital cases are a much smaller percentage of cases, but it’s still a condition which is seen fairly often.

Degenerative scoliosis is also known as adult scoliosis, and it typically develops in people over the age of 50. As people age, the discs in the spine start to wear down, and the vertebrae can begin to shift and rotate, leading to scoliosis. Other factors that can contribute to the development of degenerative scoliosis include osteoporosis, arthritis, and other spinal conditions. Degenerative scoliosis is actually the most common form of Scoliosis – as many as 1 in 3 people over the age of 60 suffer from the condition.


Does Age Contribute to the Development of Scoliosis?

The exact cause of scoliosis is unknown, but researchers have identified certain factors that may contribute to the development of the condition. While age is one of these, it’s just one of many factors. These include:


Scoliosis tends to run in families, which suggests that there may be a genetic component to the condition. Researchers have identified several genes that may be associated with scoliosis, but more research is needed to understand the role of genetics in the development of the condition.


Scoliosis is more common in girls than boys, particularly in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. This may be due to differences in hormonal levels or the fact that girls tend to go through growth spurts earlier than boys. This difference tends to even out in adult and degenerative Scoliosis cases.

Neuromuscular conditions

Neuromuscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, can also contribute to the development of scoliosis. These conditions affect the muscles and nerves that control the spine, leading to abnormal curvature.

Posture and body mechanics

Poor posture and body mechanics don’t cause Scoliosis, but they might contribute to worsening it. One group which has a particularly high incidence of Scoliosis is ballet dancers and gymnasts – one theory suggests that contorting the body as required in these activities might worsen scoliosis.

Spinal conditions

Certain spinal conditions, such as herniated discs and spinal stenosis, can also contribute to the development of scoliosis in older people. These conditions can cause the vertebrae to shift and rotate, leading to abnormal curvature.



June is Scoliosis awareness month

Scoliosis is a serious condition which can cause discomfort, disability and eventually require major surgery if left untreated. Catching scoliosis early makes it much easier to treat, so this week please take a moment to read this quick primer on scoliosis and pass it on to those you care about.


What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a disorder in which there is a sideways curve of the spine. Curves are often S-shaped or C-shaped. In most people, there is no known cause for this curve, although those who have a family history of scoliosis do seem to be at greater risk.


What are the signs and symptoms of scoliosis?

In the absence of formal screening programs scoliosis is often first discovered by parents when they see an obvious curve or hump on their child’s back, especially when bending forwards.

Occasionally scoliosis might be detected through a complaint of back pain, but scoliosis is frequently present without pain.

Typical symptoms include:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • Head appears to be off centre
  • Uneven waist
  • One side of the rib cage is higher than the other when bending forward



How common is scoliosis

Scoliosis is much more common than most people think. The latest research suggests that between 2 and 3% of children aged 10-15 years will develop scoliosis. This might seem like a small number, but 3% would be 3 in every 100 – which would be one in every 30. Therefore, about one child in each school class will develop scoliosis.

Girls are more likely to develop scoliosis than boys (about 75% of scoliosis patients are girls) but boys can and do develop scoliosis too. Research suggests that some sports and activities are associated with a higher risk of scoliosis – the most notable example are ballet dancers and gymnasts, where the condition is us up to 12 times more prevalent[1][2].


How is scoliosis treated

If scoliosis is not diagnosed early, or if the scoliotic curve is left to develop unchecked then surgery to fuse the spine may eventually be required. It was once thought that this was the only effective means of treating scoliosis – which is one of the reasons why a screening program was not put into place. [3]

Today there are a wide variety of approaches which can be used to treat scoliosis non-surgically. These methods are far less physically invasive and much less emotionally disturbing, especially for young people. Evidence strongly indicates that non-surgical treatment can be highly successful in reducing the chance that surgery will eventually be required.[4]

Often, more than one approach can be used to develop a treatment program – the two main approaches used at our clinic are scoliosis specific exercise and scoliosis bracing, however we may also complement these approaches with evidence-based Chiropractic treatment or postural correction programs. While these additional tools do not directly reduce scoliosis, they can often assist the sufferer in terms of pain relief, or with regards to improving body symmetry.


What can I do?

The biggest single factor in ensuring a good outcome for scoliosis patients is early diagnosis – a very small curve is much easier to stabilise and correct than a larger one. June is Scoliosis Awareness Month. Throughout the month, our aim is to raise awareness about scoliosis screening and the importance of early detection -you can help by raising the issue of scoliosis with your child’s school, local clubs or youth groups.

This month, we are offering free scoliosis screening sessions and informational talks to schools. So if you know anyone who might be interested, please ask them to get in touch!

You can screen for scoliosis yourself, at home, using our scoliscreen tool – available at  (https://scoliosisclinic.co.uk/scoliscreen/) if you’re a parent please feel free to use this tool to screen your own children.  It’s an excellent idea to screen all children, but those between 10 and 15 are at the highest risk. If you do have a child who participates in a high-risk activity, please take a moment to screen them if you possibly can.

If you have concerns about a young person, please don’t worry – simply get in touch to book a free professional screening here at our clinic.


[1] Tanchev, Panayot I. MD; Dzherov, Assen D. MD; Parushev, Anton D. MD; Dikov, Dobrin M. MD; Todorov, Miroslav B. MD, Scoliosis in Rhythmic Gymnasts, Spine: June 1st, 2000 – Volume 25 – Issue 11 – p 1367-1372

[2] Longworth, Brooke et al. Prevalence and Predictors of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis in Adolescent Ballet Dancers Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation , Volume 95 , Issue 9 , 1725 – 1730

[3] R Shands, JS Barr, PC Colonna, L Noall, End-result study of the treatment of idiopathic scoliosis. Report of the Research Committee of the American Orthopedic Association.  J Bone Joint  Surg 23A  (1941) 963-977.

[4] M Rigo, C Reiter, HR, Effect of conservative management on the prevalence of surgery in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Pediatr Rehabil 6(3-4)  (2003) 209-14.