Patients Ask: Is Scoliosis Hereditary?

Two women standing next to each other, one with proper spinal alignment on the right and one on the left with scoliosis bending her spine.

Scoliosis is an extremely broad term that consists of many different variations of the condition with a variety of contributing factors. If you’ve been diagnosed with scoliosis, you were likely asked if you have family members who have also been diagnosed with the condition. This may lead you to assume there is a scoliosis hereditary link.

But is this the case? The answer is a bit more difficult than a simple yes or no. In this article, we will discuss scoliosis, whether or not scoliosis is hereditary, the most common types of scoliosis, and how you can get treatment for your scoliosis.

What is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a developmental spinal disorder that causes the spine to acquire an abnormal lateral curve that exceeds 10 degrees with twisting or rotation of the spine. It causes the natural form of the spine to change and bend in a C- or S-shaped pattern. Depending on the degree of curvature, scoliosis can be easily seen or go unnoticed.

Scoliosis can develop at any age, although it is frequently linked to adolescence. The majority of the time, scoliosis has no recognized etiology, and in more than 80% of cases, there is no identifiable catalyst that causes scoliosis. It’s also worth noting that scoliosis affects women more often than men.

Before identifying whether or not scoliosis is hereditary, we must first understand the most common types of scoliosis. This is because the way that scoliosis manifests itself plays a role in whether or not there is a scoliosis hereditary link.

  • Idiopathic: There is no known etiology for this type of scoliosis. It is a developmental disorder that frequently shows up in the first few years of adolescence and is thought to have a genetic component. This is the most prevalent type of scoliosis.
  • Neuromuscular: Neuromuscular scoliosis develops when there is a neurological problem that weakens the muscles and ligaments that surround the spine. This occurs in people with neurological problems, such as spina bifida, and causes the spine’s natural curvature to break down.
  • Degenerative: This type of scoliosis, which primarily affects adults, is brought on by the spine’s shape and curvature deteriorating over time as a result of degenerating spinal joints and discs. Because of this, the muscles in the area get weaker, and the alignment of the spine worsens.
  • Congenital: Congenital scoliosis is caused by birth defects that cause the baby to be born with a spinal irregularity.  

Scoliosis can also manifest at different points in your life, which can play a role in how it affects you and whether or not there might be a hereditary link. The table below describes the different types of scoliosis: 

Infantile Scoliosis Juvenile and Adolescent Scoliosis Adult Scoliosis
This type of scoliosis affects children younger than the age of four and typically develops within the first six months. Infantile scoliosis can be idiopathic or congenital.  Juvenile scoliosis develops between the ages of four and 10, while adolescent scoliosis develops between the ages of 10 and adulthood. These types of scoliosis are usually idiopathic. Adult scoliosis doesn’t become evident until adulthood. This type of scoliosis can either be idiopathic or degenerative, as it can be caused by undetected scoliosis from youth or spine degeneration due to external factors.

Symptoms of Scoliosis

Scoliosis can lead to many complications that can negatively impact your quality of life. Common symptoms of scoliosis include but are not limited to:

  • Back pain
  • Difficulty sitting or standing for extended periods
  • Tingling and/or numbness that extends into the legs and feet
  • Aches and pain in joints, typically the vertebrae or SI joints
  • Leaning to one side
  • One shoulder blade is higher than the other
  • Pelvic misalignment

The type of scoliosis, the severity of the curve, and the age in which it manifests all contribute to the severity of symptoms. For example, someone with a larger degree of curvature is likely to experience more symptoms as well as an increased intensity of pain.

Another thing to consider is how scoliosis progresses as time passes. While idiopathic scoliosis tends to slow in progression as the spine reaches maturity in the mid-20s, it can increase the likelihood of spinal degeneration later in life due to the effects of uneven weight distribution caused by the unnatural curvature on the muscles, joints, and ligaments in the spine.

Is Scoliosis Hereditary?

There is very little evidence that shows that scoliosis can be directly inherited by children from parents in the way that a true hereditary disease is.

The longer and more accurate answer is that scoliosis is often a combination of genetic and environmental factors. This means that some types of scoliosis have a hereditary link and others do not. It mostly depends on the type, and there is very little evidence that shows that scoliosis can be directly inherited. 

So, while you will not inherit scoliosis from a parent who has scoliosis (as there is no single gene responsible for scoliosis), having someone in your family with scoliosis means you may have a genetic predisposition to develop scoliosis. This is why healthcare providers will often survey people who have scoliosis about their family’s medical background.

For example, we know that congenital scoliosis can be caused by birth defects that do have a direct genetic component. However, that genetic component is not a direct cause of scoliosis, and scoliosis instead develops as a complication of the birth defect.

Idiopathic scoliosis almost always lacks an identifiable cause. While metastudies, such as this one from the Scoliosis Journal, have been unable to provide a conclusive answer as to whether or not idiopathic scoliosis is hereditary, they suggest that the discovery of a genetic link increases as we learn more about idiopathic scoliosis.

Chiropractic Care for Scoliosis

Scoliosis complications can be painful, frustrating, and can make life more difficult. Thankfully, there are treatment options that can minimize the severity of symptoms, slow or halt progression, and in some cases, reverse the scoliotic curve.

One of the best solutions for scoliosis is chiropractic care, and receiving chiropractic treatment can provide a host of benefits to improve your quality of life. 

  • Postural exercises: These exercises, specifically designed for improving posture and maintaining the natural curve of the spine, will train the muscles around the spine.
  • Neuromuscular education: The body’s normal movement patterns are restored through this technique, which retrains the neural connections between the brain and soft tissue so that you unconsciously hold the proper posture.
  • Spinal traction: By extending and straightening the spine, spinal traction can assist in reducing the curvature of the spine.
  • Bracing: This can help to stabilize the spine’s abnormal curve, which can halt the growth of scoliosis. Scoliosis can be improved with more sophisticated “over-corrective” braces like ScoliBrace® because they force the individual spinal curvatures back to center rather than retaining the uneven spine in place.
  • Chiropractic adjustments: The use of manual adjustments to the problematic regions of the spine can lessen swelling, stiffness, and pain while also enhancing the mobility and range of motion in the joints of the spine; however, manual adjustments won’t stop or slow down the advancement of scoliosis.

If you have or think you may have scoliosis, it’s imperative that you reach out to a medical professional to be examined because scoliosis can affect the entire body. The longer scoliosis goes untreated, the more rapidly it will progress. 

If you’re concerned that you may have scoliosis, free online screenings like the one from ScoliCare can be a great first step toward diagnosis and treatment. 

When seeking chiropractic care for scoliosis, all chiropractors are not equal. Scoliosis is a complex medical issue and requires a nuanced treatment plan to do more than temporarily relieve pain and stiffness.

Effective Scoliosis Treatment with Chiropractic BioPhysics® and ScoliBrace®

Regular chiropractic care may provide immediate relief and benefits, but it is limited in providing a long-term solution for scoliosis and keeping you from having to undergo surgery. That’s why the team at PostureWorks uses Chiropractic BioPhysics® to analyze your entire medical background and unique spinal curvature. 

This enables us to craft a customized, non-invasive treatment plan for your scoliosis that incorporates a variety of treatments such as postural exercises, neuromuscular education, spinal traction, and chiropractic adjustments. We also utilize ScoliBrace® to bend the spine’s irregular curves in the opposite direction to help improve scoliosis and prevent further spinal degeneration.

With Chiropractic BioPhysics® and ScoliBrace®, you’ll experience more than just pain relief. You could halt scoliosis altogether and stay out of the operating room.

Contact us today to learn more about scoliosis hereditary links or to schedule your appointment with PostureWorks.

Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health and optimal function. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive.

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