While thought to be hereditary, the cause of most cases of scoliosis is unknown, says Dr. Peter Gabos, co-director of Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children's Center for Spine and Scoliosis Surgery in Wilmington.
"We don't know whether it's linked to the X chromosome, whether it's due to the ligaments or due to some hormonal issue," he
People with mild scoliosis may not need treatment.
Those with severe cases could undergo surgery or be fitted for a brace.
Scoliosis affects girls twice as often as boys, while the ratio of severe curves from scoliosis in girls to boys is about 7 to 1, Gabos
It is easier to diagnose as children enter puberty since they are hitting a tremendous growth spurt.
"Typically, a sixth-grade girl will have very long legs and a very short trunk," Gabos
"After that, they basically grow into their trunk, and during that very rapid phase of spine growth, the spine grows basically to meet the (growth) of the lower half of the body."
Surgery is typically performed on children with a spine curvature that exceeds 50 degrees.
The main goal is to stop the curve from increasing.
A secondary goal, Gabos
says, is to rebalance the spine toward a more common contour.
"We're taking a lot of little, crooked bones and turning them into one straight solid bone," he
"We don't treat the entire spine, only the part that's curved.
The part above the curve and below the curve is left untouched."
Surgeries also can be done on adults, but they carry more risk.
"As we get older, we get stiff," Gabos