Scoliosis is a medical condition characterized by an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. Normally, the spine has natural curves that help with balance and flexibility, but in scoliosis, there is an additional curvature that deviates from the typical alignment. The condition can affect people of all ages, but it most commonly develops during childhood or adolescence.


The exact causes of scoliosis, particularly idiopathic scoliosis (the most common form), are not fully understood. However, several factors are believed to contribute to its development. These include –

  1. Idiopathic scoliosis – Idiopathic scoliosis refers to cases where the cause is unknown. It is typically seen in adolescents and is more common in girls than boys. While the exact cause is unclear, there may be genetic and hereditary factors involved. A family history of scoliosis is a known risk factor, suggesting a genetic predisposition.
  2. Congenital scoliosis – Congenital scoliosis occurs when the spine fails to develop properly in the womb. It is present at birth and often results from vertebral abnormalities or fusion of the vertebrae. This type of scoliosis is caused by developmental factors during early fetal development.
  3. Neuromuscular scoliosis – Neuromuscular scoliosis is associated with underlying neuromuscular conditions that affect the muscles and nerves controlling the spine. Conditions such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, or spinal cord abnormalities can lead to muscle imbalance and asymmetrical spinal growth, resulting in scoliosis.
  4. Degenerative scoliosis – Degenerative scoliosis typically occurs in older adults and is associated with age-related degenerative changes in the spine. As the spinal discs and joints deteriorate due to conditions like degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, or spinal stenosis, the spine may develop a curvature.
  5. Other factors – In some cases, scoliosis can be caused by other factors, such as spinal injuries, infections, tumors, or connective tissue disorders like Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. These cases are less common and are considered secondary forms of scoliosis.

Scoliosis can vary in severity and progression. Some cases may be mild and require only monitoring, while others may require more aggressive treatment. Early detection, proper diagnosis, and regular monitoring by a healthcare professional are crucial for managing scoliosis effectively. Treatment options can include observation, bracing, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery.


The symptoms of scoliosis can vary depending on the severity of the curvature and the individual. In some cases, scoliosis may cause noticeable physical changes in the appearance of the spine, while in other cases, it may be asymptomatic and detected during routine medical examinations. Here are some common symptoms associated with scoliosis –

  1. Uneven shoulders or waist – One shoulder may appear higher than the other, or one hip may be more prominent than the other. The individual may also have an uneven waistline.
  2. Spinal curvature – The spine may have an “S” or “C” shape when viewed from the back. This may be visible as a sideways curvature of the spine.
  3. Head not centered – When looking at the individual from behind, the head may appear to be slightly off-center compared to the rest of the body.
  4. Uneven ribcage – The ribs may be more prominent on one side of the body, causing asymmetry in the chest area.
  5. Back pain or discomfort – Some individuals with scoliosis may experience back pain or discomfort, particularly as the curvature progresses or in cases of severe scoliosis. The pain may be localized to the area of the curvature or more generalized across the back.
  6. Limited mobility or flexibility – In some cases, scoliosis can result in reduced range of motion in the spine, making it difficult to bend or twist.

Scoliosis symptoms can vary, and not all individuals with scoliosis will experience pain or noticeable physical changes. Mild scoliosis may be asymptomatic and may only be detected during routine screenings or medical examinations. If you suspect scoliosis or notice any concerning symptoms, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional, such as an orthopedic specialist or spine specialist, for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Diagnosis and Tests

To diagnose scoliosis, healthcare professionals may use a combination of physical examinations, medical history review, and diagnostic tests. Here are the common diagnostic tests used – 

  1. Physical examination –  The healthcare provider will perform a physical examination to assess the curvature of the spine, observe the individual’s posture, and look for any visible signs of scoliosis. They may ask the person to bend forward at the waist to assess the symmetry and alignment of the spine.
  2. Adam’s Forward Bend Test – During this test, the individual is asked to bend forward with their arms hanging freely. The healthcare provider will visually assess the spine from the back to check for any signs of asymmetry, such as uneven shoulders, waist, or prominent ribs.
  3. X-rays – X-rays are commonly used to evaluate the shape and structure of the spine. X-ray images of the spine from the front and side views can help determine the degree and pattern of the curvature, measure the Cobb angle (the angle of the curve), and assess the skeletal maturity.
  4. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) – In some cases, an MRI scan may be ordered to provide more detailed images of the spine and surrounding structures. MRI scans can help evaluate the spinal discs, spinal cord, nerves, and other soft tissues, and may be used if there are concerns about underlying spinal abnormalities or nerve compression.
  5. CT scan (Computed Tomography) – A CT scan may be used to obtain more detailed images of the spine and assess the bony structures. It can provide cross-sectional images and help evaluate the severity and specific details of the spinal curvature.

The diagnostic tests used will depend on the individual’s age, the severity of the curvature, and the healthcare provider’s clinical judgment. If scoliosis is suspected, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional, such as an orthopedic specialist or spine specialist, for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment options.


The treatment of scoliosis depends on several factors, including the age of the individual, the severity of the curvature, the presence of symptoms, and the potential for progression. The primary goals of treatment are to prevent further progression of the curvature, alleviate symptoms, and improve the overall quality of life. The treatment options for scoliosis include –

  1. Observation – In mild cases of scoliosis with a small curvature and no progression, the healthcare provider may choose to monitor the condition regularly without immediate intervention. This typically involves periodic check-ups and X-rays to track any changes in the curvature.
  2. Bracing – Bracing may be recommended for moderate cases of scoliosis, particularly during periods of rapid growth in adolescents. The brace is custom-made and designed to apply pressure to the spine to slow down or stop the progression of the curvature. Bracing is most effective when the curvature is still flexible and has the potential to worsen.
  3. Physical therapy and exercises – Physical therapy can help improve posture, strengthen the back muscles, and increase flexibility. Specific exercises targeting the core and back muscles can help stabilize the spine and improve overall spinal health. Physical therapy can be used in conjunction with other treatments or as a standalone option in mild cases.
  4. Surgery – In severe cases of scoliosis or when conservative treatments have been ineffective, surgery may be considered. The most common surgical procedure for scoliosis is spinal fusion, where the curved portion of the spine is straightened and stabilized using rods, screws, or other instrumentation. The surgery aims to correct the curvature, prevent further progression, and improve overall spinal balance.

The choice of treatment will depend on various factors, and healthcare professionals will develop an individualized treatment plan based on the specific needs of the individual. Regular follow-up visits are important to monitor the progression of scoliosis and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional, such as an orthopedic specialist or spine specialist, for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and to discuss the most appropriate treatment options for scoliosis.