Although spinal curvature (or curvature of spine) can refer to the normal concave and convex curvature of the spine, in clinical contexts, the phrase usually refers to deviations from the expected curvature, even when that difference is a reduction in curvature.
The thoracic and sacral (pelvic) curves develop in the fetus. Around 6 months after birth the cervical curve appears which helps hold the head up. Around one year of age the lumbar curve develops which helps with balance and walking. The cervical and lumbar curves are considered secondary curves whereas the thoracic and sacral curves are primary.
Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. While scoliosis can be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, the cause of most scoliosis is unknown.
Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but some children develop spine deformities that continue to get more severe as they grow. Severe scoliosis can be disabling. An especially severe spinal curve can reduce the amount of space within the chest, making it difficult for the lungs to function properly.
Children who have mild scoliosis are monitored closely, usually with X-rays, to see if the curve is getting worse. In many cases, no treatment is necessary. Some children will need to wear a brace to stop the curve from worsening. Others may need surgery to keep the scoliosis from worsening and to straighten severe cases of scoliosis.
HOW DOES SCOLIOSIS DEVELOPE?
Sometimes it is not known why a scoliosis develops. If the specific cause is unknown, it is termed idiopathic. Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type of scoliosis and affects about two to three per cent of the population. It tends to run in families and is more common in girls than in boys. Most often the scoliosis develops in middle or late childhood during a rapid growth spurt.
Scoliosis can also be congenital (present at birth) or it may develop as a result of another neurological condition such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, or spinal muscular atrophy.
Any part of the spine can be affected by scoliosis, however, most often the thoracic and then lumbar spines are affected. The vertebrae curve to one side and may rotate, which makes the waist, hips, or shoulders appear uneven. At first, a C-shaped curve may develop causing the shoulders and hips to tilt down on one side. In an effort to keep the head in the middle, the spine may compensate by curving the lower part of the spine in the other direction, forming an S-curve.