Scoliosis Types, Symptoms, and Treatments

The term “scoliosis” comes from the ancient Greek word for “bending.” Today, it is a common back problem facing an alarming 3 out of 100 people. When a person’s spinal axis has a three-dimensional deviation, this is the tell-tale signal for scoliosis. The spine more closely resembles the letter S or C than a vertical line when viewed directly from the back. It can be diagnosed by sight; when a doctor views a patient head-on and notices a curvature of 10 or more degrees to the right or the left of either side of the patient’s center, the patient is diagnosed with scoliosis.

Scoliosis is not very disruptive in most people who have it; yet for a significant minority it can lead to severe pain. An estimated 65% of scoliosis cases have unknown causes, and are thus referred to as “idiopathic.” Congenital scoliosis is present at birth. Scoliosis is typically first Scolioobserved in childhood, as children and teens are more likely to develop it than adults and it often runs in families. Most symptoms are painless and can be physically observed.

Scoliosis Signs in Children

Children between 10 and 12 years old and in their early teens are more likely to show signs of idiopathic scoliosis as they are growing quickly and entering puberty. For unknown reasons girls are more likely than boys to experience this type of scoliosis. You may notice scoliosis in your children if you observe any of the following:

  • One shoulder rests higher than the other
  • One hip appears higher than the other
  • One shoulder blade sticks out more than the other
  • The ribcage is higher on one side when the child bends forward
  • The child’s waistline is flat on one side

Treatment Options for Children

Children with scoliosis typically do not feel any pain, and only 10% of all children with a scoliosis diagnosis require some kind of treatment to correct it. There are a few treatment options both surgical and nonsurgical, yet the type of treatment that’s right for your child depends on his age, the size of the curve, and progression risk.

Back Brace

A brace is used to prevent the spinal curvature from getting more severe. It does not correct the curvature that is already present in a spine with scoliosis. It is still an important device for children who are still growing, as this is a time when spinal curves are likely to get worse. The treatment ends when the child’s skeleton stops growing.

Physical Therapy

An excellent non-surgical approach for scoliosis for people of all ages is physical therapy. Physical therapy can be done before and after surgery regardless of the stage of scoliosis. Specific exercises and breathing techniques help to correct the body’s imbalances and develop core strength. This method can even relieve pain as the spine adjusts to a more normal position.

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion is a popular method of surgical correction for spinal curvature. During a spinal fusion surgery, metallic implants are used to hold the curvature in the proper position until bone is grafted to the affected vertebrae. Once the bone heals and hardens it forms one solid mass rigidifying the vertebral column. This is the most popular surgery for scoliosis in children and adults.

Degenerative Adult Scoliosis

Adults with scoliosis usually experience degenerative adult scoliosis which occurs when age mixes with the deterioration of the spine to develop exaggerated spinal curvature. This usually occurs after the age of 40, particularly when osteoporosis sets in affecting mostly women. Osteoporosis weakens the bones in the body, making them more likely to deteriorate. All these changes cause the spine to fail in maintaining a normal formation.

Symptoms of Degenerative Adult Scoliosis

Low back pain is usually the alarm for degenerative adult scoliosis, pain which is caused by the degeneration of the spine. Weakness, numbness, and leg pain are all symptoms. In severe cases too much pressure on the spinal cord itself leads to the loss of coordination in the leg muscles, making walking difficult.


To alleviate degenerative adult scoliosis, the treatment options are the same as they are for children. Spine braces and orthotics play a role in pain relief; however just like with children this is not a solution to fixing the shape of the spine. Orthotics are special shoe inserts that support your legs when one is longer than the other due to the scoliosis.

If you believe you are a candidate for spinal fusion surgery to alleviate your scoliosis symptoms, visit the Marc Cohen Spine Center in several New Jersey locations to consult with one of the most renowned back surgeon or call (973) 538-4444 for an appointment today.