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Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis: Treating the Condition


Dr. Aatif Siddiqui


February 15, 2024

Table of Contents

Many people think that scoliosis is only a spinal curve, but the curve is only one of many concerns and symptoms of idiopathic scoliosis. Understanding this helps us treat the cause of scoliosis progression, rather than only symptoms.

Idiopathic means “unknown cause”. Research has determined scoliosis stems from a combination of scoliosis genetics. It causes abnormal spinal alignment, during adolescent growth spurts and most often in girls. Kids with DNA for scoliosis simply can’t keep up with the pace of rapid adolescent growth

“A spinal curve is one of many scoliosis symptoms. Most are not seen on an x-ray.”

– Clayton J. Stitzel DC

Back Pain and Restricted Breathing With Idiopathic Scoliosis

Many parents often detect the curvature of the spine in their children during rapid growth spurts. That’s when the spine curves become visible. Growth spurts activate your child’s genetic predisposition for scoliosis and starts a cascade of events. We notice the spinal curve because it’s the primary sign, but other signs and issues related to scoliosis include:

  • Back pain

  • Depression/anxiety 

  • Lower quality of life

  • Restricted breathing

  • Limited physical activity

  • Decreased social functioning

A child with an adolescent idiopathic scoliosis curve measuring as little as 10 degrees may experience any of these symptoms or may only have a curved spine. Pain and other symptoms tend to worsen as the curve increases over time, especially after it reaches 30 degrees in adults with scoliosis

Looking Beyond the Visible Signs of non-congenital scoliosis

When the brain fails to control the spine’s alignment, scoliosis patients take on a forward-head position. The rib cage twists and create a “hump”, usually on the right side of the ribs. Viewed from the top down, it looks twisted when it normally wouldn’t.

The scoliosis posture has primary hallmarks visible even in the early stages of mild idiopathic scoliosis. These include:

  • Tilted eye line

  • One shoulder hangs higher than the other

  • One shoulder blade sticks out more than the other

  • One hip appears higher or more pronounced than the other

  • One side of the ribs appears higher on one side than the other

  • Mid-ear not aligned with the tip of the shoulder when viewed from the side

  • Center of eyes not aligned horizontal with the center of hips

  • The body tilts to one side

  • One leg appears shorter than the other

How You See Scoliosis (a Curve vs a Condition) Informs How You Treat It

The problem with most adolescent idiopathic scoliosis treatments (brace and surgery to fuse the vertebrae) is that they only focus on addressing the visible appearance of idiopathic scoliosis — the spine curve on x-ray. They do this by forcing the spine into a straighter configuration. But they do not address the underlying cause of scoliosis, so they fail to halt the progression of scoliosis.

Cases of scoliosis that include congenital scoliosis, where one or more vertebrae fail to form correctly in the womb, and neuromuscular scoliosis from cerebral palsy may benefit from bracing or Apifix (a type of surgery) to reduce stress on the spinal cord or spinal stenosis.

Treating the WHOLE Scoliosis Condition, Not Only the Curve

Scoliosis’ impact on your child’s quality of life is our primary concern at ScoliSMART Clinics®. That’s why ScoliSMART treatment programs do not include a brace or surgery. All too often, these treatments decrease quality of life and have poor long-term success. Non-invasive treatment efforts that focus on improving posture memory and untwisting the spine are more effective. The ScoliSMART™ treatment programs are not the norm, yet.

real success story Kiara2

Who should you call when scoliosis is diagnosed? Surgeons or ScoliSMART doctors?

To learn more about how to treat the whole scoliosis condition and not only the curve, connect with our our ScoliSMART doctors, whom are dedicated to treating scoliosis. To explore a non-brace/ non-surgical treatment for your child’s scoliosis problem schedule a no-cost Zoom or phone consultation with a ScoliSMART team member. Please get in touch with us today! Ask us about how we see scoliosis which informs how we treat scoliosis – proactive, empowering, yielding measurable results, allowing kind to be kids! Ask us about our ScoliSMART physical therapy exercises, our physical examination, medical evaluation you will understand and see the difference. Your child will feel the difference.

Traditionally, doctors will tell you to….

  • watch your child’s curve if it’s less than 25 degrees on x-ray

  • Offer a scoliosis brace if it’s 25 to 40 degrees on x-ray

  • Recommend surgery with metal rods if it’s over 50 degrees on x-ray

Braces and surgery both can cause back pain, breathing problems, muscle weakness, and long-term complications. These outdated methods don’t correct the cause of scoliosis; they only attempt to treat the curve, not the condition itself. Unfortunately scoliosis continues to progress after braces and instrumentation surgery for large curves. 

If you or your child has recently diagnosed with scoliosis or has been struggling with the symptoms of this condition for years, we can help. ScoliSMART’s revolutinary approach for the treatment of scoliosis is changing the lives of kids and adults worldwide.  Receive free recommendations on testing for scoliosis sent to your email. Learn about the ScoliSMART scoliosis treatment that evolves as your child grows.

Will Accompanying Chiropractic Care Help Improve Scoliosis


The 5 Most Common Symptoms of Scoliosis & How to Intervene

Detecting scoliosis can be tricky. Symptoms are often subtle during the early stages, which can make them easy to dismiss.

In children, developing scoliosis often goes unnoticed until they reach adolescence and enter a rapid growth phase. In adults, it can be even harder to spot. One study found that the condition remained undetected in 67% of adult back pain patients with scoliosis — particularly when the spinal curvature was mild. Even patients with moderate to severe curvature went undiagnosed more than 10% of the time. 

Knowing what to look for can make you more alert to the slight changes that can signal an abnormal curve in the spine. Catching the defect in its early stages provides more time to correct the problem before it becomes severe and creates deformity.

1. Family History of Scoliosis

The chances of developing scoliosis are — to some degree — greater if a sibling, parent, or grandparent has it. Around 3 in 10 patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis have a family history of the condition, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (MD’s). Additional research has shown that of all the factors related to the development of scoliosis, genetics account for approximately 38%.

There are also several conditions that can increase the odds of scoliosis:

  • A significant trauma or defect at birth, such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy

  • Infections

  • Unusually rapid growth spurts

  • Trauma experienced during childhood

2. Bad Posture

The earliest visible signs of scoliosis can typically be observed in the way they stand. As the spine grows along its curve, it thrusts the shoulders, waist, and hips out of alignment. While the changes can be subtle, a lack of symmetry in posture often appears before the spine curve and deformity itself becomes apparent.

Visible concerns of scoliosis include:

  • Tilted eye line

  • Uneven shoulders

  • One scapula sticks out

  • One hip appears higher or more pronounced

  • Tilted pelvis

  • Mid-ear out of alignment with tip of shoulder (when viewed from the side)

  • Center of eyes not horizontally aligned with center of hips

  • Body leans to one side

  • One leg appears shorter than the other

  • Slight limp when walking

  • Ribs stick out during a full forward bend

It is important to note that abnormal asymmetrical appearance is merely one of the problems related to idiopathic type of scoliosis — not the cause. We know genetic pre-disposition cause the onset of scoliosis, lead to neurotransmitter imbalances causing the curve’s progression, because the brain doesn’t recognize that the spine is out of alignment. As a result, it fails to re-direct the muscles to correct the spinal curvature and the spine continues to grow abnormally.

3. Ill-Fitting Clothes

Subtle changes in posture can make clothes appear ill-fitting or asymmetrical. For example, a dropped shoulder or tilted hips often cause one shirt sleeve or pant leg to hang lower than the other. The more severe the curves become, the more difficult it is to find clothes that fit properly.

Look for uneven:

  • Neckline

  • Shirt sleeves

  • Hemline

  • Pant legs

4. Back Pain

In most cases, scoliosis doesn’t limit movement or cause noticeable back pain from arthritis until the curves become severe in older adults. This is part of the reason why scoliosis is so often overlooked, especially in adulthood, even if they have only mild scoliosis.

For people with scoliosis, lower back pain caused by the condition can severely limit daily activities. A combination of non-drug pain relief, appropriate nutrient therapies and a scoliosis-specific rehabilitation program can alleviate pain without painkillers and prevent further curve progression. A scoliosis diagnosis doesn’t have to end in surgery. About 80% of cases are not highly progressive and will not cause severe deformity. And while it is common for doctors to recommend spinal fusion surgery in severe cases, there are many non-surgical scoliosis treatment options available.

Revolutionary treatments, such as active resistance therapy using the ScoliSMART Activity Suit (especially when combined with nutritional support and other techniques), have stabilized or reduced curvature in many scoliosis patients.scoliosis can and does cause pain for manyOnline consultation scheduling is available!

Now it’s even easier to connect with ScoliSMART. Schedule your no-cost, no-obligation phone or Zoom consultation online with a ScoliSMART physician right here!

5. Fatigue

Feeling fatigued after long periods of sitting or standing can also indicate scoliosis. The more pronounced the curves become, the harder the surrounding muscles have to work to keep the body aligned and balanced. This causes them to wear out more easily. Additionally, severe scoliosis can put pressure on the chest cavity, eventually restricting the ability to breathe, which can cause chronic fatigue. This is particularly common with degenerative scoliosis. 

If you notice any of these issues related to scoliosis that concern you, it is best to see a doctor right away. Early detection in children with scoliosis can make a big difference in treatment outcomes.

Don’t know where to start?  Take our FREE “ScoliQuiz.”  (No x-ray required)

ScoliSMART Clinics is committed to treating the WHOLE scoliosis condition, not only the curve. Genetic & clinical testing with targeted nutrient therapies, expert in-office treatment programs, and the world’s only ScoliSMART Activity Suit provides patients of all ages with the most comprehensive, most effective, and least invasive treatment options available worldwide.

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