How Scoliosis Forms

October 20, 2017

Do you remember getting checked for scoliosis in school when you were younger? You probably took the Adam’s Forward Bend Test, where you bent forward at the waist 90 degrees with your arms stretched toward the floor, and your knees remained straight. 

What they were looking for in this routine screening was any abnormalities, like one shoulder blade being higher than the other or the body tilting to one side. This test helps to determine if and where scoliosis occurs. 

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that is most often diagnosed in adolescents. Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but the curve can potentially worsen as children grow. Severe scoliosis can be disabling, and a severe spinal curve can reduce the amount of space within the chest and make it hard for the lungs to function properly. 

How is scoliosis diagnosed?

Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis develops around the ages of those 10 to 18 years old, beginning right around the time of rapid growth, and comprising approximately 80 percent of all idiopathic scoliosis cases.

It’s important to know the stages of scoliosis, in order to catch it early on.

  • Sideways, lateral or spinal curvature is considered scoliosis. When the curve advances to 20 degrees or more, one might notice that clothes hang unevenly. The body may also tilt to one side.
  • A scoliosis curve could cause muscle spasms and pain, from trunk imbalances or other issues.

Symptoms of scoliosis?

Signs and symptoms of scoliosis can include:

  • Reduced range of motion: the spine becomes less flexible to bend, due to the deformity from spinal twisting.
  • Trouble breathing: the rib cage will twist and tighten the lung space if the spine rotates enough. This, in turn, will make breathing difficult as the bones push against the lungs.
  • Cardiovascular problems: along with having trouble breathing, when the rib cage twists, the heart will have problems pumping blood.

Another symptom to be on the lookout for is noticeable changes while walking. Due to the spine twisting and bending, the hips may then be pushed out of alignment, changing a person’s walk. This can also cause the muscles in the legs to tire out sooner.

Complications of scoliosis

Most cases of scoliosis are mild, but it can sometimes cause complications, including:

  • The rib cage pressing against the lungs, making it more difficult to breathe
  • Chronic back pain due to large and untreated curves
  • Noticeable change in appearance due to uneven hips and shoulders, prominent ribs, and a shift of the waist

How to treat scoliosis

How your scoliosis is treated will depend on your age, type of scoliosis, your back curve, and any pain you may be in. 


For most scoliosis diagnoses, doctors will adopt a wait-and-see approach. Mild curves typically do not need any treatment, but doctors will continue to monitor these curves in children. 


 If the curve has a risk of progressing, a brace may be prescribed to prevent the curve from getting any worse. This can be uncomfortable for adolescents, not just physically, but also for self-esteem. Observation by a doctor every 4 to 6 months is an option in some cases until the adolescent has reached their full skeletal maturity.


For severe scoliosis cases, spinal fusion surgery may be recommended to stop the increase of curves. During this surgery, the small bones of the spine will be fused together and healed to form a single straight bone. 

Contact Campbell Clinic

If you have any questions about scoliosis please contact Campbell Clinic to meet with a physician. For more information about Campbell Clinic, please visit our website.

This article was adapted from Spine-Health. To view the original, click here.


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