Scoliosis: you have probably have heard the term but not sure just what it is.  Other names it is sometime referred as are: ‘curvature of the spine’ or ‘crooked back.’ The term Scoliosis comes from the Greek word ‘Skolios’ meaning crooked, hence the crooked back. In the simplest way to explain what Scoliosis is, is that the spine looks like an ‘S’ or a ‘C’ from the front or the back view.

X-ray of a back with scoliosisCredit: Lori Carnahan


Signs of Scoliosis:

1. Uneven shoulders

2. One side of the rib cage is more pronounced than the other

3. One shoulder-blade appears more pronounced than the other

4. Uneven waist/one hip being higher than the other.


There are a few classification of Scoliosis:

1. Congenital:  This means there where abnormalities at birth.

2. Neuromuscular: This when there are other medical conditions that have caused the curving of the spine such as ‘Spinal muscular Atrophy, physical trauma, cerebral palsy and Spinal Bifida’

3. Idiopathic: This is the most common type; when there seems that there is no reason it has occurred other than a growth spurt in the bones during adolescents. When the bones grow faster than the muscles do.


Although scoliosis is found in infants and adult, adolescents are usually the ones that are typically diagnosed with the condition.  Junior high, middle or high schools do scoliosis screens to find the condition early enough to asset the situation.  2% of all teenage girls and only.5% of boys are found to have scoliosis.  This screening is very simple and maybe done at home as well as a child grows.  Simply have the child bend over as if to touch their toes, run a finger down the spine from neck to tail bone and follow the spine.  If there are curves than consult the family physician.  If the school nurse finds it they will advice the same.

  A doctor will order x-rays to decide just how severe the curve or curves are.  If the curves are minor then they will only want to watch the progression every 6-12 months with more x-rays.  If the curved measure passed a certain degree they will recommend a back brace be worn, along with daily at home exercises that maybe needed. The length of time for the brace and how long the exercises needed all depends on the curves themselves.  It could a few months or up to the time the child stops growing.

  In extreme cases a doctor will recommend surgery.  This is most likely a last resort, as their as always a risk of complications with any kind of surgery.  Most cases are mild and cause no pain or discomfort; however in the few that the curves do continue to worsen therefore causing many other problems. The vertebra can begin to twist which can cause pain from pinched or bulging discs (the cushion), it may become harder to breathe.  Over time the back muscles may become stressed and cause muscle spasms and loss of flexibility or limit use of certain muscles.  Each person’s body reacts differently and so just because one person has no pain or problems does not mean another will have no limitations with the condition.

  There two other ways to classify Scoliosis that’s  Functional, where the spin is normal but such as if one leg is longer than the other, it will push the hip up and curve the spin.  Degenerative which is found in adults, this is usually caused a form of arthritis that weakens the soft tissue and ligaments of the spin.  There are also other condition such as disc degeneration, osteoporosis, and compression fractures of the vertebra.

  Scoliosis is not usually a serious or life threatening condition, but does need monitoring especially if there is pain involved.  So there is no need to panic, but it is something you need be aware of with enough concern to take good care of your body.  It’s The Only One You Get!