10 Frequently Asked Questions About Scoliosis

1. Does scoliosis cause other health problems?

If scoliosis is severe it can affect your heart, lungs, gut, spinal cord and nerves, producing a large range of problems ranging from difficulty to breathing to difficulty walking. Fortunately this is not common. Many cases of scoliosis respond to conservative treatment (such as bracing) and do not require surgery.

2. Is there a link between muscle strength and the development of scoliosis?

Scoliosis is the curvature of the spine. The spine may look like a “C” or “S” on x-ray. Scoliosis may result from juvenile scoliosis in children (unknown cause), diseases or injury of the spine, arthritis, neurological disease, surgery, etc. Neurological disease such as a spine tumor may cause back muscle weakness, which can result in scoliosis. It is not caused from being out of shape or weak.

3. What happens if scoliosis goes untreated?

Untreated scoliosis can cause a hunch back called kyphosis. Treatment depends on the age, the severity of the scoliosis and whether it is causing problems. Children are watched for scoliosis during their growth spurts. If the scoliosis is treated early with a brace then sometimes future surgery can be prevented. If scoliosis becomes severe it can affect posture, walking, lungs, heart, gut and strength, as well as causing pain. People with significant scoliosis should be closely monitored by their doctor or spine surgeon.

4. Does scoliosis ever develop later in life?

Yes, scoliosis can develop later in life from injury, back surgery, cancer, or arthritis.

5. Can scoliosis prevent a person from being able to walk?

Severe scoliosis can cause significant spinal deformity, which alters the shape of the back, causing weakness and difficulty walking. If you think your scoliosis is hindering your movement, I would recommend seeing spine surgeon who specializes in scoliosis surgery.

6. Can scoliosis cause chronic back pain?

Yes, scoliosis can cause back pain. As you age the spine wears out in a process called degeneration. This wearing out can worsen the scoliosis. Scoliosis can cause pain and usually the pain and dysfunction is related to severity. That is the more severe the scoliosis the more pain and dysfunction.

7. How does scoliosis affect the back muscles?

The back muscles can be affected by: 1) A neurological problem such as s spinal cord tumor can cause weakness in the muscles resulting in scoliosis. 2) The curved spine can strain the back muscles. 3) The curved spine can pinch off spinal nerves, weakening the back muscles.

8. Can a chiropractor help with scoliosis?

The chiropractor may help pain, but is unlikely to improve the deformity. Brace or surgery is usually needed to correct or stop the progression of scoliosis. I would discuss it with your spine surgeon.

9. Does scoliosis progress after a person is done growing?

Typical childhood (idiopathic) scoliosis progresses during the child’s growth spurt and is less concerning after you stop growing. It may worsen from arthritis in old age. Other rare types of scoliosis may progress after you stop growing.

10. Do people that have untreated scoliosis generally become shorter over time?

Mild scoliosis has little effect on height. Severe scoliosis causes a severe curve in the back and often a hunched back (kyphosis) making the patient shorter.