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What are the common symptoms of scoliosis (curvature of the spine)

If a child develops scoliosis it can be difficult to spot as they might not be in any pain. Look for signs of their body shape changing, such as one shoulder becoming higher than the other, a lean to one side, or their clothes hanging incorrectly. Many cases of scoliosis become apparent during the adolescent growth spurt (10 to 14 years)

For adults, scoliosis not only changes the physical appearance but you’ll experience pain in your back too. The strongest pain will be at the point where the spine is curving, and the surrounding muscles will feel sore and tender.

You may find you’re in constant pain, or it may feel worst if you are standing or sitting and less painful when lying down. You might also have sciatica, when the pain radiates from your spine to your hips, legs or arms. Scoliosis can also cause incontinence, numb legs and erectile dysfunction.


What causes scoliosis (curvature of the spine)

Scoliosis is caused by the spine curving abnormally to one side. It usually affects children, but can happen in older people too. Children are often first diagnosed by a school nurse or GP. The spine specialist will normally examine their spine, then take a series of X-rays.


What are the best treatments for scoliosis (curvature of the spine)

For children there are four main treatments for scoliosis. Which one is used will depend on their age, how curved their spine is and how well their lungs work:

  • Observation – this is used in non-severe cases when the scoliosis will probably resolve itself as the child grows. It involves regular X-rays to monitor the curve.
  • Casting – a cast is used to encourage the spine to grow into a normal position.
  • Bracing – this is used in more severe cases, with 20° curvature or more, to stop the curve developing any more.
  • Surgery – if a curve is 50° or more, then surgery like spinal fusion may be used.

In adults, treatment begins with pain relief such as paracetamol, anti-inflammatories and nerve block. Once the pain is under control, exercise and bracing may help to improve your posture. If the pain persists, surgery could be an option, especially if the ongoing curvature could damage internal organs. The surgery could involve a laminectomy, discectomy or spinal fusion.

Back and neck injury treatment