What Are the Symptoms of Scoliosis?

Your spine is made up of small bones called vertebrae that are stacked on top of each other. It also has a natural curve that helps you bend and move. When you have scoliosis, your spine curves more than it should. It forms a "C" or "S" shape.

Usually the curve is mild and doesn't affect your appearance or health. Yet it can get worse over time. It can also cause back pain and other health problems.

Scoliosis can affect children or adults. Some kids are born with it. Most of the time, the cause is unknown. Adults can get it later in life, too.

Here's how to spot the symptoms of scoliosis in yourself or your child. If you think you have it, see your doctor.

Scoliosis Symptoms in Kids

This condition usually appears when a child is between 8 and 10 years old. The symptoms might get worse as he grows.

Every child with scoliosis is different. Some don't have any symptoms. Others have very obvious ones, like:

  • His shoulders are two different heights.
  • His head doesn't look centered with the rest of his body.
  • One hip is higher than the other or sticks out.
  • His ribs are pushed out.
  • When the child stands straight, his arms don't hang down straight next to his body.
  • When he bends forward, the two sides of his back are different heights.

These changes to your child's body can affect his self-esteem.

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Scoliosis Symptoms in Adults

Some adults who have this condition have had it since they were teenagers. Over time, the curves can grow.

There’s another form of scoliosis that starts in adulthood. As you get older, wear and tear damages the bones and joints in your spine. The disks that sit between them start to break down. As this happens, the disks lose height and start to tilt. This causes your spine to curve.

Often, back pain is the first sign of scoliosis in adults. The pain may be from bone damage in the back -- not the scoliosis itself. As the spine curves, it can put pressure on nearby nerves and cause symptoms like weakness and numbness.

In adults, scoliosis causes symptoms like these:

  • Uneven shoulders and/or hips
  • Bump in the lower back
  • Numbness, weakness, or pain in the legs
  • Trouble walking
  • Trouble standing up straight
  • Tired feeling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of height
  • Bone spurs -- bony bumps in the joints of the spine from bone and joint damage
  • Feeling full quickly while you eat. This is because your spine is putting pressure on your belly.

When to Call Your Doctor

Some schools routinely test for scoliosis. Your child's doctor should also test for it during regular exams.

See your doctor if you or your child has back pain, uneven shoulders or hips, or any other symptoms of scoliosis. Sometimes they can be hard to tell apart from other conditions that affect the spine. An exam can show what's causing the problems.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Boston Children's Hospital: "Congenital Scoliosis Symptoms Causes."

Cincinnati Children's: "Early Onset Scoliosis (Infantile Scoliosis)."

Hospital for Special Surgery: "Scoliosis in Adults: An Overview."

Nemours Foundation: "Scoliosis."

Scoliosis Research Society: "Scoliosis."

Seattle Children's Hospital: "Scoliosis Symptoms."

St. Louis Children's Hospital: "Scoliosis."

UCLA Health: "Adult Scoliosis."

University of Maryland Medical Center: "A Patient's Guide to Anatomy and Function of the Spine," "Degenerative Adult Scoliosis."

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