A curve in the spine has been known throughout history as "hunch-back", "round-back", "swayback", or simply "bad posture". In the past, these conditions often went unrecognized or were already severe when detected. They often went untreated. Signs of a lateral curvature (scoliosis) occur in about 10% of the population although only about 2% develop a condition which would require medical treatment. Girls require treatment about 8 times more often than boys. A front to back curvature (Kyphosis) is not as prevalent as scoliosis, but it affects boys slightly more often than girls.
The first mild signs of curvature often begin to appear in early adolescence, though they frequently go unnoticed. A curvature almost always develops without pain, and in young people who are in otherwise good health. Adolescents sometimes do not see physicians regularly and are typically private about their bodies. The young person gets no signal that something is wrong. In many cases where there are early signs of curvature, however, the curvature does not become more severe. But it is impossible to distinguish, at an early stage, which curves will - and which will not - develop into a serious deformity. In many children, careful monitoring of the child's growth and perhaps special exercises for flexibility will be all that is needed. If the curve does begin to progress (typically during the adolescent's period of rapid growth), further development of the curve can often be arrested by the wearing of a back brace. If it is used before bone growth is complete.
Severe curvatures, left untreated, can cause physical deformity, arthritic symptoms, heart and lung disorders, and other medical problems. If the condition becomes severe, the only treatment is spinal surgery. In recent years spinal screening programs have provided the opportunity for early detection, regular monitoring, and reduction in the need for surgical remedies. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, has promoted postural screening in schools since 1971. A change in the regulations in April, 1980 requires all school systems in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to begin providing postural screening in grades 5 - 9. These grades cover the years in which adolescents experience most rapid growth, and in which signs of curvature most often appear.
(Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health)