Common Symptoms of Scoliosis

Woman with back pain

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  • A worsened scoliosis curve can also prompt the spine to rotate or twist and/or curve side to side
  • There are also specific scoliosis indicators that manifest in infants or in adults only, because of conditions like infantile scoliosis and degenerative or adult onset scoliosis

These are the usual scoliosis symptoms to watch out for:1,2

Uneven shoulders and/or waist

One shoulder blade appears more prominent than the other

One hip is higher than the other

Non-symmetrical ribcage (ribs may be at different heights)

Uneven leg lengths

Head is slightly off center

Individual has the tendency to lean to one side

Clothes don’t hang properly on the body

A worsened scoliosis curve can also prompt the spine to rotate or twist and/or curve side to side. This can cause ribs on one side of the body to stick out farther compared to the other side.

Signs of Scoliosis in Children and in Adults

There are also specific scoliosis indicators that manifest in infants or in adults only, because of conditions like infantile scoliosis3 and degenerative or adult onset scoliosis:4,5

Symptoms in Infants Symptoms in Adults
  • Bulge on one side of the chest
  • Baby might consistently lie down curved to one side
  • Failure of the heart and lungs to work properly, although this happens in more severe cases
  • Shortness of breath and chest pain, again in more severe cases of scoliosis
  • Dull ache or stiffness in the middle to low areas of the back
  • Gradual back pain that slowly worsens over time and can be caused by physical activity
  • Shock-like back pain that can be felt down the buttock and into the leg
  • More intense pain in the morning
  • Pins-and-needles tingling and/or numbness that can be felt down the buttock and into the leg
  • Sharp leg pain that develops while walking but subsides when resting or sitting down
  • Postural changes, such as uneven shoulders and/or hips, or even shorter height

Scoliosis Symptoms Based on Degree of the Disease

Patients with varying degrees of scoliosis experience different indicators. These are the common symptoms of people with mild scoliosis, moderate scoliosis or severe scoliosis:6

Mild Scoliosis Moderate Scoliosis Severe Scoliosis
  • Scoliosis curve is less than 25 degrees
  • Tilted head
  • Uneven shoulders or hips
  • Appearance of “Forward Head Posture,” or the head may appear forward of the shoulders when viewed from the side
  • Clothing may hang unevenly
  • Uneven leg lengths
  • May go unnoticed by medical doctors or school screeners
  • May not be associated with pain
  • Scoliosis curve measuring 26 to 40 degrees
  • Tilted head
  • Uneven shoulders or hips
  • Often have a shoulder blade that’s higher than the other
  • Appearance of a “rib bump”
  • Tendency for clumsiness
  • Tendency to feel fatigued or become easily winded after physical activity
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the spine, usually between the shoulder blades and at the base of the rib cage
  • Scoliosis curve measuring above 40 degrees
  • Tilted head
  • Uneven shoulders or hips
  • Spine can be seen having a “C” or “S” shape beneath the skin
  • Rotated torso that pulls the belly button off center
  • Often have a shoulder blade that’s higher than the other
  • Appearance of a “rib bump”
  • Increased tendency to be clumsy or accident-prone
  • Clothing may hang unevenly
  • Tendency to feel fatigued or become easily winded after physical activity, including sitting or standing for long periods of time
  • Headaches
  • Pain in spine, usually between the shoulder blades and at the base of the rib cage

How Is Scoliosis Diagnosed?

If you notice these indicators, whether on a child or an adult, consult a doctor, physician or health professional immediately. Mild curves can develop without the patient knowing it, because these tend to appear gradually and don't cause pain. Teachers, friends, colleagues and other people the patient interacts with frequently are the first to notice these symptoms.7

A physical examination of the spine, ribs, hips and shoulders will be carried out first. In some cases, the doctor can use a tool called an inclinometer or Scoliometer to measure the degree of scoliosis, have the patient stand and bend forward from the waist, with arms hanging loosely, to check if one side of the rib cage is more prominent than the other and ask questions about the patient’s medical history and/or recent growth.8,9

Afterwards, the doctor can recommend the patient to an orthopedic spine specialist or pediatric orthopedist, if necessary. These health professionals often deal with scoliosis. Other methods of diagnosis for scoliosis involve:

  • X-rays: An x-ray may be required by a pediatrician or orthopedic surgeon to evaluate the current state of the condition, and determine the shape, direction, location and angle of the curve.
  • Imaging scans: Further symptoms like back pain or severe signs of scoliosis may prompt the health professional working on the diagnosis to order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scan.

MORE ABOUT SCOLIOSIS

Scoliosis: Introduction

What is Scoliosis?

Types of Scoliosis

Severe Scoliosis

Scoliosis Symptoms

Dealing with Scoliosis-Related Pain

Scoliosis Causes

Scoliosis Side Effects

Scoliosis Treatment

Scoliosis Back Braces

Yoga for Scoliosis

Exercises for Scoliosis Patients

Scoliosis Surgeries

Scoliosis Prevention

Diet for Scoliosis Patients

Scoliosis FAQ



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