Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Adult Scoliosis

In most cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. People of all ages can have it and it can run in families. There are three types and causes of scoliosis, including:

  • Idiopathic scoliosis: In most cases, there is no known cause for the curvature.
  • Congenital scoliosis: This type is present at birth and due to a problem with the formation of the vertebrae or with ribs that were fused during development in the womb.
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis: caused by problems such as:
    • Poor muscle control or muscle weakness
    • Paralysis, due to diseases like such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida or polio

A fourth type, degenerative scoliosis, is found primarily in people over age 65 as a result of a breakdown of the spinal discs, as seen with arthritis or osteoporosis.


In diagnosing scoliosis, your physician will conduct a complete medical history and physical exam. Further diagnostic tests include:

  • X-rays: The main tool for diagnosing scoliosis, X-rays allow your physician to measures the degree of spinal curvature.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRIs use a combination of large magnets and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan uses X-rays and computer technology to make horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat and organs.