Most Common Types of Scoliosis

Do you notice a curve in your spine? If so, you may have scoliosis. Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves sideways and rotates, causing a 3-dimensional change in the spine and trunk. After being studied by the scientific community for many years, professionals have categorized this spinal condition into five separate types.

Do you notice a curve in your spine? If so, you may have scoliosis. Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves sideways and rotates, causing a 3-dimensional change in the spine and trunk. After being studied by the scientific community for many years, professionals have categorized this spinal condition into five separate types.

Although scoliosis can affect anyone, it’s most often found in children and teenagers. Understanding the different types of scoliosis is crucial not only for diagnosis but also for determining the most effective treatment strategies.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the most common types of scoliosis, discussing their characteristics, causes, and implications for individuals affected.


Scoliosis Overview

Before discussing the types, it’s important to understand scoliosis. 

Scoliosis is typically diagnosed when a person’s spine curves sideways and rotates in a 3-dimensional way, forming a “C” or “S” shape when viewed from the back. This curvature can vary in severity and lead to complications if not managed properly, such as progressive curves requiring surgery, noticeable postural and trunk change, pain or discomfort, and other symptoms.

Learn more about this spinal condition in our in-depth starter guide on scoliosis


Types of Scoliosis

Scoliosis is not a one-size-fits-all condition; its classification is based on the age of onset, cause, and curve pattern.

Let’s take a closer look at the most prevalent types:

Two spine examples — left is a normal spine, right is a spine with scoliosis

(Left) Normal spine anatomy. (Right) Scoliosis can make the spine look more like the letters “C” or “S. (source:


1. Idiopathic Scoliosis

Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common type, accounting for about 80% of all cases. The term “idiopathic” means that the exact cause is unknown. This type is categorized further based on the age at which it develops:

  • Infantile idiopathic scoliosis develops in children aged 0-3 years.
  • Juvenile idiopathic scoliosis is diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 10 years.
  • Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis occurs between ages 10 and 18 and is the most common form within the idiopathic category. This type is especially significant because it coincides with the rapid growth spurts of puberty, which can sometimes make the curvature more pronounced.


2. Congenital Scoliosis

Congenital scoliosis develops as a result of a bone abnormality present at birth. This type of scoliosis arises from a spine malformation during fetal development, leading to one or more vertebrae that are not formed properly. This can present in numerous ways:

  • The vertebrae don’t fully form
  • Several vertebrae are fused together
  • An extra vertebra develops that’s wedge-shaped

The deformities can cause the spine to curve. 

Diagnosing congenital scoliosis early is crucial, as the curvature can progress significantly as the child grows.


3. Neuromuscular Scoliosis

This type of scoliosis is associated with neurological or muscular conditions, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or spina bifida. 

Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by poor control of the muscles that support the spine, often as a result of changes in tone and spasticity of various muscle groups. The curve may be extended and C-shaped. Additionally, because of the nature of the underlying conditions, it can be more severe and progress more rapidly than other forms of scoliosis.


4. Degenerative Scoliosis

Also known as adult-onset scoliosis or denovo scoliosis, degenerative scoliosis occurs later in life and is typically found in the lumbar (lower) spine. It is caused by the degeneration of the joints and discs in the spine due to the natural process of aging. 

When degeneration happens asymmetrically, this can lead to the gradual development of a curve in the spine and can be accompanied by pain and stiffness. In progressed cases, a person may experience neurological symptoms such as numbness and tingling.


5. Syndromic Scoliosis

Syndromic scoliosis is associated with various syndromes or disorders that affect multiple body systems, such as Marfan Syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. This type is similar to neuromuscular scoliosis in that the scoliosis is just one part of a more extensive condition affecting the patient.


Treatment Approaches: How They Differ Between Types of Scoliosis

Treatment for scoliosis varies depending on the type, severity, and age of the patient. Options range from observation and routine check-ups for smaller curves to scoliosis-specific physiotherapy and bracing for moderate curves, which can help prevent further curvature in growing children. 

Surgical options, such as spinal fusion, are considered for severe curves to correct the alignment and prevent further progression of the curve.

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Idiopathic Scoliosis Treatment Approaches

If you’re diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, then the curves in your spine may progress if left untreated. That’s why it’s crucial for children and teens to get early diagnosis that includes a baseline x-ray from the front and side views. 

The treatment decisions in idiopathic scoliosis are typically based on the size of the curve, also known as the Cobb angle. Here’s what you can expect for treatment based on the angle:

  • Curves between 10-25°: General treatment recommendations include monitoring and scoliosis-specific physiotherapy.
  • Curves between 25-45°: Generally doctors suggest a combination of scoliosis-specific physiotherapy and spinal bracing to try to prevent curve progression. 
  • Curves over 45°: A conversation with an orthopedic spine surgeon is necessary to determine if a spinal surgery such as spinal fusion or vertebral body tethering are appropriate. 


Congenital Scoliosis Treatment Approaches

Given that curves in congenital scoliosis form due to bone malformation, their primary management typically involves monitoring by a spine surgeon. While scoliosis-specific physiotherapy can aid in enhancing strength, posture, and alleviating pain, surgical intervention is recommended, if necessary, to completely correct congenital scoliosis.


Neuromuscular Scoliosis Treatment Approaches

As the spinal curve in neuromuscular scoliosis arises as a secondary manifestation of another condition, it’s imperative to monitor and manage the primary underlying condition. Healthcare professionals overseeing this care can provide guidance on when and how intervention for the scoliosis curve may be necessary. 

Integrating scoliosis-specific physiotherapy into existing treatment plans allows for discussions on tailored exercise regimens and positioning strategies, particularly beneficial for non-ambulatory individuals. The suitability of bracing varies based on individual circumstances and should be determined by consulting with medical experts.


Degenerative Scoliosis Treatment Approaches

Adults with scoliosis will have very different presentations and have various experiences. Some adults had idiopathic scoliosis as a teenager, and now their spine continues to change in adulthood with degenerative changes. Other adults develop scoliosis for the first time in their older years. 

With adult scoliosis, the treatment parameters are less clear than with teens. For adults, the goal is to manage the pain and symptoms and improve posture, regardless of the size of the curve.

As surgical decisions are more so based on the situation and less on the Cobb angle, you should have a conversation with the orthopedic to discuss the best treatment options. Scoliosis-specific physiotherapy is a great option to address the above concerns, and part-time bracing may be a way to support the spine during daily activities.

Living with scoliosis can be challenging, but with advancements in medical technology and treatment strategies, many individuals lead full and active lives. If you have scoliosis, the team at The ScoliClinic is dedicated to helping you better your life. 

While we can help you with an extensive, tailored treatment plan, remember that education and support from family, friends, and other healthcare professionals are key to managing the condition effectively.


Don’t Let Scoliosis Hold You Back

Scoliosis is more than just a spinal curve; it is a diverse and complex condition requiring a multifaceted treatment and management approach that acknowledges the physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects. By understanding the different types of scoliosis, you will be able to collaborate more effectively with healthcare providers to achieve the best possible outcomes. 

Whether through monitoring, non-invasive treatments, or surgery, the goal is to ensure quality of life and minimize the condition’s impact on your daily activities. If you’re suffering from scoliosis symptoms and pain, let us help! Talk to our caring team today.

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