Signs and Symptoms of Scoliosis:
Treating the Condition

Dr. Clayton J Stitzel
FACTUALLY ACCURATE & VERIFIED BY

Dr. Aatif Siddiqui

Last updated on
January 17, 2022

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.

Table of Contents [Hide]

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
CEO, ScoliSMART


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.

The 5 Most Common Symptoms of Scoliosis & How to Intervene

Detecting scoliosis can be tricky.  Symptoms are often subtle during the early stages, which can make them easy to dismiss.

In children, developing scoliosis often goes unnoticed until they reach adolescence and enter a rapid growth phase. In adults, it can be even harder to spot. One study found that the condition remained undetected in 67% of adult back-pain patients with scoliosis — particularly when the spinal curvature was mild. Even patients with moderate to severe curvature went undiagnosed more than 10% of the time. Get recommendations on avoiding scoliosis surgery sent to your email.

Knowing what to look for can make you more alert to the slight changes that can signal an abnormal curve in the spine. Catching the defect in its early stages provides more time to correct the problem before it becomes severe.

All forms of scoliosis involve some degree of spinal curvature, yet recent research in scoliosis genetic testing has revealed new insights into the root cause of the condition.

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.

Below are the five most common signs and symptoms of scoliosis:

1. Family History of Scoliosis

The chances of developing scoliosis are — to some degree — greater if a sibling, parent, or grandparent has it. Around three in 10 patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis have a family history of the condition, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Additional research has shown that of all the factors related to the development of scoliosis, genetics account for approximately 38%.

There are also several conditions that can increase the odds of scoliosis:

  • A significant trauma or defect at birth, such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy
  • Infections
  • Unusually rapid growth spurts
  • Trauma experienced during childhood

2. Abnormal Posture

The earliest visible signs of scoliosis can typically be observed in one’s posture. As the spine grows along its curve, it thrusts the shoulders, waist, and hips out of alignment. While the changes can be subtle, a lack of symmetry in posture often appears before the spinal curve itself becomes apparent.

Visible warning signs of scoliosis include:

  • Tilted eye line
  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade sticks out
  • One hip appears higher or more pronounced
  • Tilted rib cage
  • Mid-ear out of alignment with tip of shoulder (when viewed from the side)
  • Center of eyes not horizontally aligned with center of hips
  • Body leans to one side
  • One leg appears shorter than the other
  • Slight limp when walking
  • Ribs stick out during a full forward bend

It is important to note that abnormal posture is merely one of the symptoms of scoliosis — not the cause. While we don’t know what causes the initial scoliosis defect, we do know that a curve’s progression occurs because the brain doesn’t recognize that the body’s posture is out of alignment. As a result, it fails to direct the muscles to correct the spinal curvature and the spine continues to grow abnormally.

3. Ill-Fitting Clothes

Subtle changes in posture can make clothes appear ill-fitting or asymmetrical. For example, a dropped shoulder or tilted hips often cause one shirt sleeve or pant leg to hang lower than the other. The more severe the curves become, the more difficult it is to find clothes that fit properly.

Look for uneven:

  • Neckline
  • Shirt sleeves
  • Hemline
  • Pant legs

4. Back Pain

In most cases, scoliosis doesn’t limit movement or cause noticeable back pain until the curves become severe. This is part of the reason why scoliosis is so often overlooked.

For people with scoliosis, pain caused by the condition can severely limit daily activities. A combination of non-drug pain relief, appropriate nutrient therapies and a scoliosis-specific rehabilitation program can alleviate pain and prevent further curve progression.

5. Fatigue

Feeling fatigued after long periods of sitting or standing can also indicate scoliosis. The more pronounced the curves become, the harder the surrounding muscles have to work to keep the body aligned and balanced. This causes them to wear out more easily. Additionally, severe scoliosis can put pressure on the chest cavity, eventually restricting the ability to breathe, which can cause chronic fatigue.

If you notice any symptoms of scoliosis that concern you, it is best to see a doctor. Early detection can make a big difference in treatment outcomes.

A scoliosis diagnosis doesn’t have to end in surgery. About 80% of cases are not highly progressive and will not cause severe deformity. And while it is common for doctors to recommend spinal fusion surgery in severe cases, there are many non-surgical scoliosis treatment options available.

Revolutionary treatments, such as active resistance therapy using the ScoliSMART Activity Suit (especially when combined with nutritional support and other techniques), have stabilized or reduced curvature in many scoliosis patients.

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.

Need more information about the ScoliSMART Approach?

Pioneers of Scoliosis BootCamp

World's Only Scoliosis Activity Suit

Only Testing & Nutrient Therapy for Scoliosis

Doctors with Big Hearts for Scoliosis Patients

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

34 w 119th st
New York, New York 10026