Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine.

You probably don’t look directly at spines often, but you might notice that some people have uneven shoulders or hips when they are standing.

The angle of the curve may be small, large or somewhere in between. But anything that measures more than 10 degrees is considered scoliosis.


Scoliosis doesn’t normally improve without treatment, but it isn’t usually a sign of anything serious and treatment isn’t always needed if it’s mild. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe.

  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other
  • the ribs sticking out on one side
  • Uneven waist
  • One hip higher than the other
  • leaning to one side
  • a visibly curved spine
  • Some people with scoliosis may also have back pain. This tends to be more common in adults with the condition.


In around 80% cases, the cause of scoliosis is unknown. It appears to involve hereditary factors, because the disorder tends to run in families. It may be caused by:

  • Underlying nerve or muscle condition, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy
  • Birth defects affecting the development of the bones of the spine
  • Injuries to or infections of the spine
  • Wear and tear of the spine with age – this is called degenerative scoliosis, which affects older adults


Treatment for scoliosis depends on the age, how severe the curve is, and whether it’s likely to get worse with time.

  • Braces
  • Pain relief, such as painkillers, spinal injections.
  • Electrical stimulation of muscles
  • Surgery

It’s not clear whether back exercises help improve scoliosis, but general exercise is good for overall health and shouldn’t be avoided unless advised by your doctor.

See your GP if you think you or your child has scoliosis. It’s unlikely that there’s anything seriously wrong, but it’s best to get checked out.

Sources: National Health Service. Mayo Clinic.

Acupuncture is an option for pain relief and electrical stimulation of muscles.