Scoliosis & Genetics


Genetics and ScoliosisScoliosis is a spinal condition that affects people in different ways. Some patients suffer from severe scoliosis while others only possess a mild experience. The most prevalent form of scoliosis refers to idiopathic scoliosis. Research reveals that Idiopathic Scoliosis is multifactorial. Its cause suggests a familial relationship more than genetics being the cause. It is also important to note that after lots of research, no one knows if heredity causes any of the forms of scoliosis.

Doctors refer to scoliosis as a complex condition because of the way it develops.  And of course, because it involves the spine and other major organs. Scoliosis can occur at any age. There are different types of scoliosis, each with different causes.

Before we consider the genetics of scoliosis, let’s touch on the different forms:

Forms of Scoliosis in Children

Doctors have identified known causes for the following forms of scoliosis:

  • Idiopathic scoliosis
  • Congenital scoliosis
  • Infantile scoliosis, also known as early-onset
  • Juvenile scoliosis
  • Adolescent scoliosis
  • Neuromuscular-related scoliosis

Idiopathic Scoliosis

Idiopathic scoliosis causes the spine to develop an abnormal curve and is the most common type of scoliosis. It typically runs in families and affects girls eight times as often as it affects boys. “Idiopathic” simply means there is no definite cause. In many cases, idiopathic scoliosis appears mild and usually requires no treatment apart from close monitoring.

When doctors know the cause of scoliosis, they can make better decisions to determine the correct treatment.  Presently, 80 percent of the diagnosed cases of scoliosis are idiopathic, which means that the cause is not known. Certainly, if the cause was from genetics, it would help doctors to find a cure.

Causes of Idiopathic Scoliosis

Generally, idiopathic scoliosis is ‘multifactorial,’ which implies that it stems from different variables or the interaction of certain variables. This explains why there exist so many theories that try to explain the genesis of idiopathic scoliosis. Idiopathic scoliosis is considered by some theories as a condition with neurological components, musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, hormone-related, body-mass-related, bone-density-related, genetic components, and lots more.

Despite all the studies to uncover the root causes of Idiopathic scoliosis, there has been no clear causative link. Idiopathic scoliosis requires an integrative treatment approach.  The approach should involve creating a fully customized treatment plan that addresses the needs of patients and their unique conditions.

Genetic or Congenital Scoliosis

So, what does it mean to refer to scoliosis as a genetic condition?  What is the difference between ‘genetic’ and ‘familial’?

According to the Scoliosis Research Society, about 7 million people currently live with scoliosis in the United States. Note that these consist of only diagnosed cases. If we were to include the worldwide number of people living with scoliosis we’d see a huge number.

Having a better understanding of scoliosis is part of the reason why some look to genetics for answers.  Patients will seek to find a cause of Scoliosis and sometimes consider genetics as a cause since it explains why individuals develop a specific condition. This knowledge alleviates worries that somebody’s lifestyle caused a particular condition.

What Does a Genetic Condition Mean?

There are many different opinions on the internet relating to why idiopathic scoliosis develops. Some writings include claims about scoliosis being a genetic condition. A genetic condition can pass from one generation to the next and it can skip a generation due to a specific gene, or genetic mutation.

With that said, it is important to acknowledge that proving a medical condition emanates from a genetic cause is based on sophisticated scientific evidence. In a condition that has been officially classified as ‘genetic,’ scientists can identify a specific genetic mutation or specific gene. This has yet to happen for scoliosis.

Despite the years, effort, and investment spent on studies and research that attempt to isolate a particular ‘scoliosis gene’ that causes the development of the condition, researchers do not fully understand the factors that lead to its development.

The general consensus among experts is that instead of being genetic, scoliosis is ‘familial.’ This means that the chance of developing scoliosis can increase if someone in the family possesses scoliosis.

Scoliosis is usually considered a mysterious or complex condition as a result of many factors, and etiology is one of them. Although scoliosis tends to run in families, it is important to remember that families share many things apart from their genes. They share lifestyle, spaces, diet, posture, response to stress, and socioeconomic factors among others.


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Research Studies

Twin studies reveal that one identical twin can develop scoliosis while the other does not — despite sharing the same genes. In cases where both twins develop scoliosis, one can display a particular curvature, while the other possesses a different type and severity of the curvature.

A clear answer as to scoliosis being caused by genetics does not exist.  One study involving identical twins revealed that both hereditary and environmental factors could play critical roles in the condition, but the facts do not conclude this fact yet.  In other words, a person could carry the gene (that’s if it exists) but may never develop scoliosis. Also, a person without the gene may develop scoliosis as a result of other factors.

This makes scoliosis and genetics a controversial topic. However, if we consider how long this condition has been around, how prevalent it is, and the level of research conducted, it’s surprising that a specific scoliosis gene (if it exists) has not been identified.

It is natural for parents and caregivers of loved ones that have been diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis to seek causes. However, at the present time, the facts have not been found to confirm a definitive finding. The facts conclude that we don’t have a full understanding of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the emergence of the condition.

Scoliosis Treatment

Here at the Southwest Scoliosis Institute, even though we don’t possess all the answers about where idiopathic scoliosis emanates from, we know how to effectively treat it. Even if we understand the etiology of idiopathic scoliosis, the answers would not affect the treatment plan. A spinal structural condition needs correction irrespective of its causes.

At Southwest Scoliosis Institute, we combine different scoliosis-specific treatment disciplines to provide our patients with fully customized treatment plans that tackle the condition on a structural level while focusing on enhancing the overall strength, health, and function of the spine. Here at Southwest Scoliosis Institute, we offer our patients a result-focused functional treatment approach to scoliosis that emphasizes correcting and reducing spine curvature and also improving the overall health and function of the spine.

Integrative Approach

We’ve already established that idiopathic scoliosis appears as multifactorial, and requires an integrative approach that involves the use of many treatment disciplines. At Southwest Scoliosis Institute, our doctors can provide multiple scoliosis treatment disciplines to our patients. This allows us to ensure we treat our patients with methods that provide success to thousands of patients.

From cutting-edge care to customized home exercises to specialized bracing, we provide all you need to improve your scoliosis and help you live a healthier and more comfortable life.

We use an integrative approach when treating scoliosis. This allows us to develop effective plans that treat the specific condition and needs of each patient. As board-certified physicians and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons, we understand how scoliosis affects people and how treatment stops pain.

Throughout the treatment process, we will closely monitor how the spine responds to treatment and then adjust our treatment if the need arises. We focus on treating scoliosis in the most effective and patient-focused manner possible whether genetics is responsible or not.

Contact Us For a Functional Approach to Scoliosis Treatment in Children

Our Medical Practice at Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists with offices in Dallas, Arlington, Frisco and McKinney, Texas has top-rated doctors with the experience and knowledge necessary to offer patients the best possible treatment for children with Scoliosis. Additionally, we welcome new patients and invite parents to make an appointment for their child.  Get in touch with us today at 214-556-0590 to schedule an appointment and discuss minimally invasive treatment options for your child’s condition.


National Institute of Health: Scoliosis and Genetics