The Most Common Symptoms of Scoliosis

Scoliosis affects about 3% of the population, or an estimated six to nine million people in the US. Every year, patients with scoliosis schedule 600,000 visits to private physician offices. About 30,000 children are fitted with a brace while 38,000 patients require surgery.

Despite how many people struggle with symptoms of scoliosis, many don’t know how to recognize them. Read on to learn everything you need to know about scoliosis.

After reading this guide, you can determine if it’s time to seek a specialist’s help. Read on to learn more.

What Is Scoliosis?

The human spine is made up of small bones called vertebrae. The spine’s natural curve enables us to move and bed. Patients with scoliosis, however, have more of a curve than they should.

Scoliosis can cause the spine to develop an unnatural C or S-curve.

In most cases, the curve is mild and shouldn’t affect your overall health, mobility, or appearance. However, the problem can get worse over time, especially if what’s causing the problem persists. In addition to back pain, scoliosis can cause other health problems if you delay treatment.

Scoliosis affects both adults and children. Some children are born with the condition.

Lifestyle choices can cause adults to develop scoliosis later in life as well.

Common Symptoms

Some adults can develop scoliosis as teenagers, only for the curves in their spine to grow over time. In other cases, however, scoliosis can develop in adulthood.

As we age, the bones and joints in our spines experience natural wear, tear, and damage.

The disks in our spine can also begin to break down, causing disks to lose height and tilt. The result is a spinal curve that can lead to back pain and other symptoms.

Back pain is usually the first sign an adult has developed scoliosis. However, pain symptoms are usually due to the bone damage that’s occurred (not scoliosis).

When the spine curve gets worse, it can start to put pressure on nearby nerves. Common symptoms include pain and numbness. Other symptoms can include:

  • Bone spurs (bumps in the joints of the spine)
  • Loss of height
  • Trouble standing up straight
  • Difficulty walking
  • Feeling full quickly when eating (due to pressure on the belly)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Uneven shoulders
  • Uneven hips
  • Bumps in the lower back
  • Feeling tired
  • Numbness, weakness, or pain in the legs

If you’ve developed scoliosis, you might start to lean a little when you stand up. You might also notice a visible curve in your back. Occasionally, your ribs can start sticking out farther on one side of the body.

The resulting muscle strain can lead to fatigue, too.

In Children

Keep an eye out for these symptoms of scoliosis in your child. If these symptoms sound familiar, consider scheduling an appointment with your child’s doctor. Usually, symptoms appear when a child is between 8 and 10 years old.

Remember, the problem can get worse without proper treatment.

It’s important to note that every child develops different symptoms. While some don’t have visual symptoms, others develop problems like:

  • Ribs that are pushed out
  • One hip appears higher than the other
  • A hip that sticks out
  • Shoulders at two different heights

In some cases, your child can stand straight, only for their arms not to hang straight down beside their body. When your child bends forward, the two sides of their back might appear at different heights, too. Perhaps their head doesn’t appear centered with the rest of their body instead.

These symptoms could affect your child’s self-esteem. Consider visiting a specialist if these symptoms sound familiar.

Types of Scoliosis

Idiopathic scoliosis is a form of scoliosis that occurs without a known cause. For many patients, the reason for a curved spine isn’t evident.

Idiopathic scoliosis is the most common cause of pediatric spinal deformities. It accounts for 80% of all scoliosis conditions.

Congenital scoliosis begins while a baby’s back is still developing before birth. The vertebrae could cause the spine to curve if they’re incomplete or fail to divide properly. Sometimes, doctors can spot congenital scoliosis before the child is born.

In other cases, symptoms might not become evident until the child is in their teen years.

Neuromuscular scoliosis develops due to disorders like spina bifida or cerebral palsy. You can also develop neuromuscular scoliosis after sustaining a spinal cord injury. These conditions can cause damage to muscles, impacting the muscle’s ability to support your spine.

Degenerative scoliosis affects adults and usually develops as disks and joints of the spine wear out with age.

What Causes Scoliosis?

Remember, the root cause of a patient’s scoliosis isn’t always clear. However, a few potential causes include:

  • Neuromuscular conditions (muscular dystrophy, poliomyelitis, cerebral palsy)
  • Specific genes
  • Leg length (if one leg is longer than the other)
  • Osteoporosis (due to bone degeneration)
  • Syndromic scoliosis (which develops as part of a medical condition)
  • Carrying heavy backpacks or boxes
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Some injuries that cause spinal curvature

Certain lifestyle factors can increase your risk of scoliosis as well.

For example, some children develop symptoms during a growth spurt, right before puberty. Some adults are more at risk due to wear and tear on their joints and disks.

Females have a higher risk than males, making gender a risk factor as well. Otherwise, genetics can play a factor. You might be at higher risk if you have a close relative with the condition.

When to See a Doctor

Let your doctor know if you’re experiencing back pain, uneven hips and shoulders, or some of the other symptoms listed above. It’s sometimes challenging to tell scoliosis apart from other conditions that affect the spine.

Your doctor can complete an examination to determine the root cause of your chronic back pain and other symptoms.

The Symptoms of Scoliosis: Seek Treatment From a Specialist Today

Do these symptoms of scoliosis sound familiar? Don’t hesitate to visit a specialist. Beginning treatment right away can help you avoid complications down the road.

With help, you can end your back pain and resolve your symptoms.

We’re here for you. Contact us today to take the next step.

At New York City Spine Surgery, our standard for excellent care means treating you as a whole person, and not just another spine disorder on a chart.

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