What causes Scoliosis?

There are different types of scoliosis, some with known causes and some with causes unknown.

Idiopathic Scoliosis

80% of all scoliosis are considered “idiopathic”. The word idiopathic means “of unknown origin”. However, recent research into the cause of scoliosis seems to suggest that there is often a genetic factor which affects the control of the spine’s growth.

Although a positive family history is a risk factor, the development of and idiopathic scoliosis is generally described as being multifactorial. Idiopathic scoliosis does not always appear in subsequent generations, suggesting that that other factors may need to be present for a scoliosis to develop. It is strongly recommended that if there is a case of scoliosis in the family, children are checked regularly as they grow.

The most common type of idiopathic scoliosis occurs in adolescence (teenagers) and is called Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis  or AIS. Idiopathic scoliosis is more common in adolescence because this is the time when the spine is growing quickly in comparison to the rest of the body.  Therefore and issue that affects the spines growth is amplified during this period. As the rest of the body is connected to the spine it can be affected as well. For example is the scoliosis curve develops in the middle of the back then the shoulders can be displaced, with one sitting higher up than the other. As the scoliosis worsens the effect on the rest of the body can cause the body to asymmetrical and in severe cases  the body can looked deformed. The cosmetic impact of the scoliosis can therefore cause some psychological distress  for patients, in particular because most patients are teenage girls and the scoliosis usually becomes noticeable.

Neuromuscular Causes

5% to 7% of scoliosis cases are caused by a neuromuscular conditions.  trigger the development of a scoliosis. These can includes conditions such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.   If a child is diagnosed with a scoliosis on x-ray, an MRI may also be ordered to rule out any underlying neurological causes. Examples of neurological causes of scoliosis include: Arnold Chiari malformation, syrinx etc.


Development of scoliosis has also been reported after spinal trauma or injury.