Neurological Spine Disorders


What is scoliosis?

A normal spine, when viewed from behind, appears straight. However, a spine affected by scoliosis shows evidence of a lateral, or sideways, curvature, and a rotation of the back bones (vertebrae). Scoliosis is defined as a curvature of the spine measuring 10 degrees or greater on x-ray and can occur in any part of the spine.

Scoliosis is a type of spinal deformity and should not be confused with poor posture.

There are many types of scoliosis and they can involve any age group.


What causes scoliosis?

Scoliosis usually develops during childhood, but it also can occur in adults. Adult scoliosis may represent the progression of a condition that actually began in childhood, and was not diagnosed or treated while the person was still growing.

Adult scoliosis may also develop spontaneously during the aging process. Other spinal deformities such as kyphosis or round back, are associated with the common problem of osteoporosis (bone softening) involving the elderly.

As more and more people reach old age in the U.S., the incidence of scoliosis and kyphosis is expected to increase. If allowed to progress, in severe cases adult scoliosis can lead to chronic severe back pain, deformity, and difficulty in breathing.

What are the symptoms of scoliosis?

The following are the most common symptoms of scoliosis.However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

Back pain, leg pain, and changes in bowel and bladder habits are not commonly associated with idiopathic scoliosis.Breathing difficulty does not typically occur until curves reach more than 90 degrees. A person experiencing these types of symptoms requires further medical evaluation by a physician.

The symptoms of scoliosis may resemble other spinal conditions or deformities, or may be a result of an injury or infection. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is scoliosis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, x-rays (a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film) are the primary diagnostic tool for scoliosis. In establishing a diagnosis of scoliosis, the physician measures the degree of spinal curvature on the x-ray.

The following other diagnostic procedures may be performed for non-idiopathic curvatures, atypical curve patterns, congenital scoliosis, or adult scoliosis:

Early detection of scoliosis is most important for successful treatment.

Treatment of scoliosis

Specific treatment of scoliosis will be determined by your physician based on:

The goal of treatment is to stop the progression of the curve, not necessarily to completely correct the curve.

Treatment may include:

According to the Scoliosis Research Society, there is no scientific evidence to show that other methods for treating scoliosis (i.e., manipulation, electrical stimulation, and corrective exercise) prevent the progression of the disease.

Stanford Medicine Resources:

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