Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis:
Treating the Condition

Dr. Clayton J Stitzel
Dr. Aatif Siddiqui
Last updated on
October 27, 2021

Many people think that scoliosis is only a spinal curve, but the curve is only one of many signs and symptoms of idiopathic scoliosis. Understanding this helps us treat the cause of scoliosis progression, rather than the symptoms.

Idiopathic means "unknown cause".  Research has determined scoliosis stems from a combination of scoliosis genetics. It causes abnormal spinal alignment, during adolescent growth spurts and most often in girls.

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Normally, the brain tells the body how to align with gravity and stand straight as it grows. Spinal posture is an automatic neurological response in most children. The brain centers that control spinal posture muscles tell them to keep the spine straight. This is how a baby learns to stand and balance.  Kids with DNA for scoliosis can't keep up during periods of rapid adolescent growth. Receive free recommendations on testing for scoliosis sent to your email.

"A spinal curve is one of many scoliosis symptoms."

- Clayton J. Stitzel DC

Other Signs of Scoliosis: Pain and Restricted Breathing

The brain doesn't send those normal messages when your child has idiopathic scoliosis. We often detect the curvature of the spine during rapid growth spurts.  That's when the spinal curvature becomes visible. Growth spurts activate your child's genetic predisposition for scoliosis and starts a cascade of events. We notice the spinal curve because it's the primary sign, but other signs and symptoms of scoliosis include:

  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Lower quality of life
  • Restricted breathing
  • Limited physical activity
  • Decreased social functioning

A child with a scoliosis curve measuring as little as 10 degrees may experience any of these symptoms or may only have a curved spine. Pain and other symptoms tend to worsen as the curve increases, especially after it reaches 30 degrees in adults with scoliosis

Looking Beyond the Visible Signs

When the brain fails to control the spine's position, scoliosis patients take on a forward-head posture.  The rib cage twists while the spine's normal curve flattens. Viewed from the front or side, the spine looks flat where it should be curved. Viewed from the top down, it looks twisted when it normally wouldn't.

The scoliosis posture has five primary hallmarks visible even in the early stages of mild idiopathic scoliosis. These include:

  • Tilted eye line
  • One shoulder hangs higher than the other
  • One shoulder blade sticks out more than the other
  • One hip appears higher or more pronounced than the other
  • One side of the rib cage appears higher than the other
  • Mid-ear not aligned with the tip of the shoulder when viewed from the side
  • Center of eyes not aligned horizontal with the center of hips
  • The body tilts to one side
  • One leg appears shorter than the other
  • Ribs stick out when a child does a full forward bend

The problem with most scoliosis treatments, bracing and surgery is that they focus on addressing the visible symptoms of scoliosis — the curve. They do this by forcing the spine into a straighter configuration. But they do not fix the underlying cause of scoliosis, so they fail to halt the progression of scoliosis.

When Treatment Becomes Part of the Problem

In fact, they can worsen your child's condition. Most scoliosis treatments have not only proven ineffective at providing any lasting corrective benefits, but they often cause new scoliosis pain problems. 

Unfortunately, during the early stages of scoliosis most doctors adopt a wait-and-see approach. This allows the curve to worsen when proper treatment of the underlying condition could have stopped progression. 

Braces, aside from provoking discomfort, cause your child's muscles to get weaker when what they need is to grow stronger. Without enough movement, the joints around the spine can develop other degenerative problems. Constricted lungs struggle for air, and ribs buckle under the stress. All this can lead to headaches, anxiety, sleep problems, and cognitive dysfunction. 

Surgery, while reserved for the most severe cases, brings complications of its own. Spinal fusion, the surgical method used to correct scoliosis, often leads to a lifetime of chronic pain. One study found that scoliosis surgery fails to improve the quality of life for patients. Another study discovered that 40 percent of surgery patients became handicapped within 17 years. 

Treating the curve causes more problems than it solves. That's why the most effective solution isn't to correct the spine directly, but to correct the condition itself. Unfortunately, during the early stages of scoliosis most doctors adopt a wait-and-see approach. This allows the curve to worsen when proper treatment of the underlying condition could have stopped progression.

Treating the Condition, Not Only the Curve

Scoliosis' impact on your child's quality of life is our primary concern at ScoliSMART Clinics®. That's why ScoliSMART™ treatment programs do not include bracing or surgery. All too often, these treatments decrease quality of life and have poor long-term success. Non-invasive treatment efforts that focus on improving posture memory and untwisting the spine are more effective. 

The ScoliSMART™ treatment programs are not the norm, yet. Traditionally, doctors will tell you to watch your child's curve if it's less than 25 degrees.  Offer a scoliosis brace if it's 25 to 40 degrees.  Recommend surgery if it's over 50 degrees. Bracing and surgery both cause increased symptoms, pain, and long-term complications. These outdated methods don't correct the cause of scoliosis; they only treat the curve. Scoliosis continues to progress after bracing and surgery. 

If your child has recent signs of scoliosis symptoms or has been struggling with the symptoms of this condition for years, we can help. ScoliSMART's updated approach for the treatment of scoliosis is changing the lives of kids and adults worldwide.

Don’t know where to start?  Take our FREE “ScoliQuiz.”  (No x-ray required)

ScoliSMART Clinics is committed to treating the WHOLE scoliosis condition, not only the curve. Genetic & clinical testing with targeted nutrient therapies, expert in-office treatment programs, and the world’s only ScoliSMART Activity Suit provides patients of all ages with the most comprehensive, most effective, and least invasive treatment options available worldwide.

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Meet the ScoliSMART Doctors

Click the images below to get more information about the ScoliSMART Doctors.

Dr. Clayton J Stitzel

Dr. Clayton J. Stitzel

504 W. Orange Street
Lititz, PA 17543
Dr. Mark Morningstar

Dr. Mark Morningstar

8293 Office Park Drive
Grand Blanc, MI 48439
Dr. Brian T Dovorany

Dr. Brian T. Dovorany

26940 Aliso Viejo Parkway, Suite 105
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656
Dr. Aatif Siddiqui

Dr. Aatif Siddiqui

2 W 45th Street, Suite 404
New York, NY 10036