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Scoliosis is a condition where the spine curves sideways and often show up before adulthood. There are varying degrees of curvature that can contribute to the patient’s discomfort. The scoliosis definition is usually described as a curve in the spine in the ‘coronal’ plane. Planes refer to where on the body the scoliosis is located.


There are four primary types of scoliosis. They are idiopathic, congenital, neuromuscular, and degenerative scoliosis. Many patients fall into idiopathic scoliosis, which does not have a direct cause. Congenital scoliosis is developed before birth. Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by a spinal cord injury or disorder that causes curvature of the spine, and degenerative scoliosis is when the spine is affected and curved in older adults because of wear and tear.


Your physician may recommend monitoring the spine and any progression for those with mild curvature. This is often the course of treatment for children still growing. Other forms of treatment include physical therapy that can strengthen the core and improve posture. Back braces support the back and can prevent any further damage but are worn for over twelve hours a day. Lastly, surgery is an option for more severe scoliosis cases.


Scoliosis symptoms are often noticeable, especially if it is more severe. The shoulders of individuals may seem uneven, and shoulder blades may stick out. It will seem like parts of the body are generally not aligned naturally, such as the head not being centered along the same line as the pelvis. There may also be skin differences, such as color differences or dimples. Individuals may also lean. Scoliosis symptoms include:

  • Visible curvature of the spine
  • An uneven appearance of the body alignment
  • Back pain or stiffness
  • Pain or numbness



Scoliosis surgery is recommended for those with severe curvature of the spine. This is when the spinal curve is greater than 40 degrees with children. In adults, it is when the curvature is greater than 50 degrees. Surgery can include spinal fusion, bone grafting, removing a rib, or decompressing the spine. Some surgeries use rods to support the back.


Physical therapists will often work with scoliosis patients to strengthen their back and support muscles to improve posture. This can also ease the pain. Some common exercises include pelvic tilts, or the cat/cow pose, often used in yoga to stretch the spine. Pelvic tilts engage the abdominal muscles that can improve posture. Arm and leg raise strengthen the lower back and work the back muscles. Poor posture does not result in scoliosis, but similar exercises can provide a good foundation for a strong back.


Scoliosis has an extensive range of severity. However, there are options for each progressive stage. Exercise or physical therapy can be a successful treatment for those with mild to moderate scoliosis. Wearing a brace is often helpful for individuals. For those who have severe scoliosis, surgery is often required.

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