Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that occurs most often in adolescents, though adults may develop the condition too. The spine bends to one side of the body, causing the torso to compress on that side. The ribs on that side are pushed closer together, while the ribs of the other side become farther apart. Scoliosis also involves a rotation of the spine, in which the individual vertebrae bones twist around the long axis of the spine. An estimated 60 percent of the elderly population have what is known as adult scoliosis. As people live longer and are more active now, this number is expected to increase.

It is estimated that 2% to 4% of all children between the ages of 10 to 16 years have detectable scoliosis. An equal number of boys and girls develop scoliosis. In the case of boys who are affected, it usually occurs in early childhood. Most people with scoliosis have barely noticeable curvatures; however, young girls are more likely to develop scoliosis that needs treatment.


Some of the most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain in the back
  • A leaning of the entire body toward one side
  • One shoulder blade is higher than the other
  • One hip seems to be raised compared to the other
  • An uneven waistline
  • The head is off-center above the shoulders and might not appear directly above the midline of the body
  • The spine appears to be growing sideways and developing into an “S” shape or a “C” shape
  • Tingling sensations or acute numbness in the limbs, finger or toes
  • Loss of balance
  • Accelerated aging of spinal discs
  • Decreased lung volume
  • Psychological distress and anxiety

Treatment will be based on the severity of the spine’s curvature. In mild cases, treatment isn’t necessary. The more severe the curve, the greater the chances that the condition will progress. For progressive scoliosis, a customized brace or plaster cast will be needed to hold the spine straight. The brace is made to extend from the hips to the neck and must be worn for about 23 hours a day. The brace is worn until the skeleton stops growing rapidly, which is usually when adolescents have almost reached full height.

About 50% of children with scoliosis will need some form of treatment or at least require close and active observation. Prompt treatment will usually prevent the condition from worsening.