Does Scoliosis Have a Genetic Cause?


From birth, every individual is examined by a medical professional at least once per year. During that doctor visit, there will be an evaluation done on the spine to determine whether or not there is any presence of scoliosis. For parents that have scoliosis in their family history, it’s a common question whether or not scoliosis is passed to offspring.

While it appears there is a higher probability of scoliosis being passed down, there is no real solid evidence to point to the reason why. A parent or sibling of a person having been diagnosed with scoliosis has an increased risk, but there are several different environmental and genetic factors that must also be taken into consideration. That’s why it is considered a disorder that is sporadic in nature. Discover more about what the chances of inheriting scoliosis are and possible treatment options.

What is Scoliosis?

The body’s spine has areas where there are natural curves that happen in the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical regions. The reason for the curves being, of course, so that the body can move around and handle stresses that are put on it during routine activities. When a doctor or chiropractor is inspecting a patient for scoliosis, he or she is looking at the coronal or frontal plane for a curvature that is unnatural.

This is how there is a measurement done to see if there is an unnatural curve that is going to lead to or already causing scoliosis. There are three different classifications of scoliosis including:

  • Idiopathic – when no other scoliosis type can be determined. About 80% of patients are diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis. It’s the most common and often found while a child is going through puberty.
  • Congenital – present at birth. Occurs when there is one area of the spinal column that grows slower than the rest.
  • Neuromuscular – progresses rapidly, requires surgery, and comes secondary to other muscular and neurological diseases like spinal muscular atrophy, spina bifida, and cerebral palsy.

Through the visual examination, a CT scan, MRI, X-ray, and/or spinal radiograph, doctors and other healthcare professionals measured the number of degrees the spine is curved to determine whether or not a patient has scoliosis. When there is a posterior-anterior radiograph that shows a 10-degree curve or larger, that person is considered to have scoliosis. Significant scoliosis happens at 25 to 30 degrees and severe scoliosis is the diagnosis when the curve is measured at 45 to 50 degrees or more.

Can Scoliosis Be Passed Down?

Whether you have a child or if you are thinking about having children in the future, if you or anyone in your family has been diagnosed with scoliosis in the past, it’s a natural question if scoliosis is genetically inherited. With it affecting 2 to 3% of the population of the United States, it has a prevalence that makes you at least think about whether or not your child will have the disorder.

Microbiology Biology Gene Dna Analysis Medicine

While the reason for the development of scoliosis has been a bit of a mystery in the past, there has been evidence found by scientist that there may be a gene that is linked to the disorder. Together scientist and investigators worked from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, Rutgers State University of New Jersey, the University of Iowa, and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis to find the gene called CHD7 that leads to the S and C-shaped curves in the spine.


The research proves that there is genetics involved in the passing down of scoliosis genetically. However, there are still other factors that have to work in coordination with the CHD7 gene to result in the development of the disease.

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Treatment Options for Scoliosis

If you or one of your children has been diagnosed with scoliosis whether it was passed down genetically or came out of having that CHD7 gene present, the most important thing is getting treatment. For mild scoliosis curves, there frequently is no pain or discomfort. In those instances, there isn’t any treatment other than just observing the patient to ensure the problem doesn’t get any worse. Doctors will often like to see their patients every four to six months to see if the problem is progressing.

Close up of female osteopath doing shoulder blade therapy on young woman.

More severe cases result in that pain and discomfort along with problems moving and breathing. This is when it is ideal to seek out treatment from a medical professional or chiropractor that treats scoliosis. The least invasive form of treatment should be sought out first, and that can include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Casting
  • Braces


Only when these methods prove not to be effective should a parent seek out spinal fusion surgery. That will reduce the degree of curve in the spine and keep it from getting any worse. The most essential part of treating scoliosis is early detection. That’s why doctors check during every office visit and there are often scoliosis tests done at school as well. Any of the following signs or symptoms should point you in the direction of getting your child looked at, or yourself if you are experiencing them as well:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • Head not directly centered over the pelvis
  • Hips that are raised or high
  • Different heights in rib cages
  • Uneven waist
  • The texture in skin changes over the spine where the curve is
  • Clothes not fitting properly
  • Pain or discomfort in the spinal area
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If you think you may have scoliosis in your family, seek out professional advice from a medical doctor or you can visit my Anchorage chiropractic clinic.  Many of my patients and potential patients also are not aware they can see a chiropractor without insurance. You always have the option to pay out-of-pocket for your visits.

It’s better to get treatment started right away to prevent any further damage and keep surgery far away from being necessary.

Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. has been a chiropractor for over 20 years and has treated thousands of patients. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998 and is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.

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