Scoliosis is an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine. It is most often diagnosed in childhood or early adolescence. The spine’s normal curves occur at the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions in the so-called “sagittal” plane. These natural curves position the head over the pelvis and work as shock absorbers to distribute mechanical stress during movement. Scoliosis is often defined as spinal curvature in the “coronal” (frontal) plane. While the degree of curvature is measured on the coronal plane, scoliosis is actually a more complex, three-dimensional problem which involves the following planes:
Scoliosis affects 2-3 percent of the population, or an estimated six to nine million people in the United States. Scoliosis can develop in infancy or early childhood. However, the primary age of onset for scoliosis is 10-15 years old, occurring equally among both genders. Females are eight times more likely to progress to a curve magnitude that requires treatment. Every year, scoliosis patients make more than 600,000 visits to private physician offices, an estimated 30,000 children are fitted with a brace and 38,000 patients undergo spinal fusion surgery.
Source: National Scoliosis Foundation, June 2007.
Scoliosis can be classified by etiology: idiopathic, congenital or neuromuscular. Idiopathic scoliosis is the diagnosis when all other causes are excluded and comprises about 80 percent of all cases. Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of scoliosis and is usually diagnosed during puberty.